DETROIT -- The Filo concept car, developed by Italian vehicle designer Carrozzeria Bertone SpA and SKF Automotive of Sweden, offers the experience of drive-by-wire technology for steering, braking, gear change and clutch in a modified Opel Zafira.
SKF is best known as a supplier of bearings, and its Chicago Rawhide subsidiary supplies seals to the auto industry. But SKF also has an electrical division that has supplied fly-by-wire technology to the aerospace industry for 15 years. Filo is the Italian word for wire.
The Filo has no accelerator, brake or clutch pedals. All functions are controlled by hand on a triangular shaped steering yoke connected to the center console. The handles of the yoke act as both accelerator and brake. They rotate like those of a motorcycle to accelerate, and a squeeze of either handle actuates the 4-wheel brakes. At the heart of each system is an SKF smart electro-mechanical actuating unit under intelligent control.
The Filo replaces brake fluid and the conventional hydraulic system with a complete by-wire caliper assembly developed with Italian brake specialist Brembo. The steering system also is completely dry, driven entirely by an electric motor.
Driving the Filo requires considerable concentration because it is so different from a conventional vehicle. The steering is extremely sensitive; the yokes have a range of motion of only 20 degrees and do not make a complete turn like a traditional steering wheel. It also is difficult to us the same hand to brake, accelerate and push a button to change between two gears.
llustrating the driving challenges, a guest at a recent event in Plymouth, MI, slammed into a curb using the same drive-by-wire technology, causing significant undercarriage damage.
Power comes from a 1.8L Opel 4-cyl. production engine that produces 115 hp. Top speed in the Filo is about 40 mph.
Filo also has a 21-speaker Bose surround sound audio system and neon exterior lighting from Osram Sylvania. The vehicle has no mirrors; rear and side vision is provided by three cameras in the rear of the vehicle with a screen in the instrument panel for the driver to see.