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We tend to look at the sum of all parts when we give verdicts on a car. The unsung heroes however are the parts that make the whole, and for technological giant ZF, it is increasingly becoming a matter of pride to showcase their advancements that make car companies look good. The Porsche Panamera I drove this month for example (story in the July 2017 issue of evo India) mentioned the 8-speed PDK as the gold standard and the rear axle steer as a technology that enhances the driving experience. Little did I know that ZF made these for Porsche. Just a week later, I was presented with the same car, the only difference being the change in location from Lavasa to the Pachfurth driving camp in Austria. There is ZF’s presence in most things automotive but what if it all came together as a single product? Say hello to what used to be a Volkswagen Touran.
It’s now called the Zero Vision vehicle and besides the design and chassis, you will find little resemblance between the two. For starters, it has automated driving that works at speeds under 130kmph but a few engineers anonymously mentioned that it works at speeds as high as 200kmph. A few rough edges need to be polished as it won’t handle sharp turns and requires human intervention there but the level to which it takes autonomous driving is simply mind blowing. The car won’t let you drive in the opposite direction and if you ignore the warning signals, it will completely take control and brake.
When autonomous driving is activated and it senses an obstacle, the four wheeled steering will help it crab crawl away from the obstacle. Oh yes it can turn all four wheels in the same direction at the same time autonomously. Speaking of the rear axle, it’s called mSTARS for modular semi-trailing arm rear suspension and comes with an integrated electric drive system driving the rear wheels. The prototype makes 150KW of power which is about 201bhp. And since its electric, acceleration is quick off the line. “The solution is suitable for hybrid, fuel-cell and battery-powered vehicles as well as in combination with conventional all-wheel modules or our AKC active rear axle steering,” said Dr Holger Klein, head of ZF’s Car Chassis Technology Division. ZF has been making rear steering axles for a while with the 911, the Panamera and also has a steeper steering angle in the F150 rear steer prototype but the Zero emissions vehicle takes this to the next level with the integration of the powertrain and autonomous driving.
Radars, cameras, brakes, active body control, airbags, chassis components, seat belt tensioners, steering systems, electronic components, its practically a whole new car by ZF. The company invested two billion euros in research and development in 2016 and the investment shows in the advances it has made to develop so many features that will see the light of day in production cars sometime soon. Many exhibits already implemented give us an idea of how real the rest of the future tech is.