More MBS Coverage TRAVERSE CITY, MI – After flying under media radar for the past several years, so-called drive-by-wire technology likely will be back in the spotlight this fall, thanks to SKF Automotive Div. North America.

In an interview at the Management Briefing Seminars here, George Dettloff, president of SKF Automotive Div. North America, says a concept car called Novanta – currently being shown off at various shows in Europe – will start making the rounds in the U.S. in October.

The Novanta concept is drivable and features a steering wheel that folds into the door.

Drive-by-wire essentially refers to replacing traditional mechanical functions with electric motors and electronics. It now is used for steering in aerospace, on some aircraft and in limited automotive applications.

High-visibility concepts such as General Motors Corp.'s hydrogen fuel cell-powered Hy-wire drew lots of attention to the technology in 2002, with advanced features such as an aircraft-style steering wheel.

While the technology may seem radical, Dettloff points out that many mundane automotive devices, such as window cranks, already have undergone the “by-wire” transformation, and parking brakes are on their way.

The BMW AG 7-Series, for instance, features a parking brake activated by a button rather than a lever.

One of the benefits the Novanta shows off, Dettloff says, is a steering wheel that folds into the door to make ingress and egress easier.

The design also has numerous manufacturing benefits because bulky traditional linkages are eliminated. For instance, he says, it is simple to build left- and right-hand-drive cars on the same assembly line.