A new torque vectoring system is aimed at helping you navigate your truck or large SUV through tight turns and U-turns.
Ford recently filed a patent for a vehicle turning radius reduction system with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). The filing, discovered by Motor Authority, specifically mentions cars with a longer wheelbase, like trucks and larger front-wheel-drive SUVs that might struggle in tight spaces.
The system will use torque distribution to individual wheels to reduce the radius. It's essentially the same concept at torque vectoring but slowed down to enhance parking rather than improve handling. Think of it as an active torque vectoring system rather than the brake-based systems already widely used in the automotive world. If this sounds familiar, it's because the Ford Bronco has something called Trail Turn Assist to help navigate tight turns on an off-road trail. That uses a similar principle, but the new patent applies specifically to larger vehicles while catering to both ICE and BEV powertrains.
While the Bronco relies on you being in 4H or 4L modes on the 4WD system, Ford's new patent specifically mentions that both front- and all-wheel-drive vehicles are catered for.
You start by selecting the required setting or turn mode, and then when the car determines the steering wheel is at full lock and you are below a certain speed threshold - to avoid driveline damage - it activates, braking the inside rear wheel while sending torque to the front axle. The braking can be mechanical, using the ABS sensors and brakes on an individual wheel, or by means of regenerative braking applying negative torque to the inner rear wheel.
Ford refers to it as "turning radius reduction mode" in the patent, but the marketing department will likely come up with a snappier name when it reaches production.
After doing the maths, the system will decide whether the desired radius can be met or whether the driver needs to try again. If the turning radius reduction mode is happy, the driver will get the go-ahead. Ford will likely incorporate it in the same way normal parallel and perpendicular park assist systems are built into the touchscreen interface.
Disconnecting the rear axle is an optional step on AWD vehicles (electric ones included), which makes sense considering the wide variety of all-wheel drive, four-wheel drive, and electronic four-wheel drive options Ford currently offers. These different systems are all unique and don't operate in the same way. The F-150 Lightning has a unique eAWD system, and Ford has already filed patents for tank turning and crab walking, both of which are only possible thanks to its EV skateboard layout.
Basically, by locking the inner rear wheel in place and driving the fronts, the car will pull around a fixed point, creating a vastly reduced turning radius. Meanwhile, the unbraked outer rear wheel will be able to rotate freely to prevent excess wear.
It's unclear whether this system will be put into production, but it doesn't seem too futuristic, especially when combined with an EV powertrain where torque is more easily managed.
Our concern is that the tech is too similar to Trail Turn Assist with one major drawback; TTA is for use on a slippery surface, whereas this seems to be for paved parking, where the locked wheel will be subjected to greater frictional forces, possibly wearing flat spots into tires and placing additional lateral loads on systems that are meant to operate in a linear fashion.