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Space Drive and the Schaeffler Mover pave the way to a sustainable and autonomous future

At the IAA, Schaeffler will present the third generation of its Space Drive technology and the enhancements that have been made to the Schaeffler Mover – solutions for autonomous and sustainable mobility in urban spaces.

In the future, autonomous and partly autonomous vehicles will have no mechanical connection between the steering wheel and the steering gear. Schaeffler has been active in the field of autonomous driving for years, and the company already supplies products that are suitable for volume production and directly available. Owned by Schaeffler Paravan, Space Drive is a key enabling technology for tomorrow’s automated, autonomous, and connected vehicles that is currently being developed with a view to volume production. It is a leading drive-by-wire technology comprising a triple-redundant electronic interface that operates vehicle steering, accelerator, and braking functions and thus enables autonomous driving in a wide range of application scenarios.

“In the future, all autonomous vehicles will need brake-by-wire and steer-by-wire technology,” explained Dr. Dirk Kesselgruber, Head of Schaeffler’s Chassis Systems business division. The focus was previously on so-called “people movers” and other autonomous vehicles that were equipped with Space Drive. Schaeffler Paravan also plans to bring the Space Drive technology onto the rapidly growing market for industrial, agricultural, and leisure applications. Thanks to its remote control function and the omission of space-consuming steering wheels, the system also offers greater comfort and safety for caravans, mowing vehicles, and vehicles used in high-risk areas such as mining, ski slope maintenance, salvage, and firefighting.

By the year 2021, Schaeffler Paravan aims to have this system ready for volume production. Schaeffler also recently signed an investment agreement with China’s Hunan province. The aim of this collaboration is firstly to enhance the autonomous technologies available in China for application in the country’s giant metropolitan centers, and secondly to establish a new R&D centre in the region.

Space Drive is a system of hardware and software in which all elements have been perfectly matched and that offers a revolutionary safety concept. In addition to drive and braking, Space Drive’s steer-by-wire function also allows the vehicle to be steered safely and reliably using only electronic control signals.

Space Drive is the world’s first – and so far only – drive-by-wire system to be licensed for on-road use and to feature the level of redundancy needed to guarantee functional safety and reliability. “The world’s only triple-redundant drive-by-wire technology with approval for road use is a key element in autonomous driving,” explained Matthias Zink, CEO Automotive OEM at Schaeffler. All of the system’s components comply with the stringent ECE standards. The computer unit (ECU) also fulfills the demanding ISO 26262 ASIL D functional safety standard. Schaeffler Paravan has equipped the third and most recent generation of Space Drive with even more high-performance electric motors and electronics, and has brought the interfaces fully up to date. In addition, the system’s costs are significantly lower and the electronic systems are secured against outside interference.

Among its many applications, Space Drive is used in the all-electric Schaeffler Mover, which was recently awarded the German Mobility Prize by Germany’s Federal Ministry for Transport and Digital Infrastructure. The Schaeffler Mover is a flexible and locally zero-emission platform that supports a wide range of vehicle concepts, and Schaeffler uses it to demonstrate tomorrow’s innovative drive and chassis technologies. The Mover integrates all of the components needed for driving functionality – drive system, battery, braking system, and steering – in a single compact unit known as a rolling chassis. This makes the Mover a particularly attractive solution for urban mobility because it supports a range of superstructures and can thus be used in numerous applications, from robo-taxis to autonomous delivery vehicles.

Schaeffler Paravan is continuing to develop its proven Space Drive technology for controlling the Schaeffler Mover’s drive-by-wire functions. The system bridges the gap between the control level for automated vehicle steering and the four wheel modules – the Schaeffler Intelligent Corner Modules. These highly integrated wheel suspension units, which are the core of the Mover, contain all of the drive and chassis components – including the wheel hub motor – in a single space-saving unit. Each of the four wheels has a steering angle of up to 90 degrees, which ensures maximum maneuverability with minimal space requirements. Even parallel parking to allow passengers to embark and disembark and turning on the spot are possible.

Schaeffler Paravan makes functional safety in development a high priority by means of a high level of redundancy: Even in the event of a defect in the wheel modules, the wheel-selective drive and steering ensure that no loss of steering function or traction occurs. The concept vehicle’s primary purpose for Schaeffler is to test and further develop components to get them ready for volume production. “With the Schaeffler Mover, we are demonstrating our ambition to become an innovative partner in the field of mechatronic chassis systems”, explained Matthias Zink, CEO Automotive OEM at Schaeffler. Visitors to the IAA can test the Schaeffler Mover in the outdoor area of the trade show grounds.

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