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HomeFeatured ArticlesThe "By-Wire" System Explained (Drive, Brake, Steer, Shift, Throttle)

The “By-Wire” System Explained (Drive, Brake, Steer, Shift, Throttle)

The by-wire system uses wire and electronic components to control major car features like steering, throttle control and braking. How does it work, what are its types and is it better than the conventional mechanical system? We answer everything.

The By-Wire System

Named as such because it uses electronic wires instead of mechanical or hydraulic systems, it is the norm in most new cars. The main reason the by-wire system came into existence was to improve upon the present methods of controlling various car features. The by-wire system includes the throttle control, brake control, steering control and shift by wire. Before we get into how these types work,, we will briefly explain the actual idea behind the by-wire system.

General Working Of The By-Wire System

The by-wire uses the ECU along with motors and sensors to perform work that was earlier done mechanically often using pivots and hydraulic pressure. Being electronic with no mechanical system, it makes the car significantly lighter.

The main working that all of the by-wire system use is a senor to pick up the change in the object which is driven by wire and then sending this signal to ECU which sends data to motors to control the features as necessary.

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Types And Working Of Types Of By-Wire System

There are multiple types of by-wire system that are currently being used and being improved upon. The major ones are as follows.

Throttle By Wire (Electronic Throttle Control) 

Instead of using a pivot, throttle by wire instead uses a pedal position sensor. This sensor monitors the position of the accelerator pedal. Movement of the pedal is sensed and the ECU is notified of this. ECU with preloaded data then opens the throttle according to how much the accelerator pedal was pressed. The throttle opening and closing are controlled by an electric motor whose control is directly in the hand of ECU.

Brake By Wire

Brake By Wire
Brake By Wire

Along with the throttle by wire, brake by wire is another major system that has taken advantage of the electronic system. Similar to the ETC it uses a brake pedal sensor which monitors the position of the pedal. Movement of the pedal is passed on to the ECU which is connected to four DC motors one on each tyre. Depending on the depression of the brake pedal the ECU commands the motors to brake. As these motors are independent of each other they can apply different pressure on each tyre which helps while using other technologies like ABS and TCS.

The ECU also uses data from other sensors like the wheel speed sensor and lateral acceleration sensor to get a perfect idea of how much braking is required. As braking is one of the more necessary parts of a car its failure can be quite devastating. Thus brake by wire systems also uses a backup brake system to make sure the car can always brake.

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Steer By Wire

Similar to how the others work, steer by wire would remove the mechanical parts and will be controlled by electronic sensors. If you noticed that we used future tense for this its because steer by wire is not a thing available yet. Most countries consider it illegal because of safety concerns. Steer by wire system removes the shaft going from the steering wheel to the tie rods and instead uses wires and actuators to control the wheels. The sensor monitors how much the steering wheel was turned and ECU then uses the actuators to move the wheels accordingly.

Steer by wire is considered on the important parts of the autonomous driving system as it can allow the car to use sensors to monitor the surroundings of the car and act accordingly without needing the driver input. Think of it like Adaptive Cruise Control with automatic steering.

Shift By Wire

Gear shift module
Gear shift module

As you might have guessed by reading about the other system at this point. This by wire system removes any and all mechanical parts involves in gear shifting and instead adds a small module for the driver to choose what driving more they want to use. The driving mode involves Neutral, Drive, Park and Reverse. Simply pressing the button or turning the knob makes the car stay in that position and the rest is controlled automatically by the car.

With the major by-wire systems covered we can move ahead and see if they are actually worth the hassle.

Advantages Of By-Wire System

  • The biggest advantage of a by-wire system is that it removes a lot of weight from the car. All the mechanical and hydraulic parts weigh enough that the car manufacturers have to design other parts according to them. This indirectly increases performance as well because less weight equals more speed.
  • By-wire system gives OEMs creative freedom. Currently, with the normal system, they are forced to design something that works with the other mechanical parts. With the by-wire system, they will not be limited by these linkages and will be able to design more efficient and better parts.
  • As these are electronically controlled they can be programmed to either provide peak performance or peak efficiency.
  • Maintenance of the by-wire is quite easy as the engineer can hook up the ECU to a computer and control all the features and how they are supposed to work.

Disadvantage Of By-Wire System

  • Failure of ECU pretty much kills the car as all these systems need ECU to function.
  • There is a possibility of these sensors being ‘hacked’ however it would need to be physical access to tamper with the values.

This about covers the by-wire system. A future where all these systems are used together is not far away and it can’t come any sooner as it pushes the automobile technology in the correct direction.

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Kartik Rangam
Kartik Rangam
Content Writer at GoMechanic | Loves Writing | Loves Cars | You know where this is heading | Level 12 Meme Lord | EVolution

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