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TRW
, supplier of systems and components to automakers, has introduced its latest generation steering column control module for the Ford SuperDuty and F-150, Edge/MKX and Explorer. Why is this news, and what the heck is a steering column control module?
In the old days (the 1990s), a bunch of individual pieces were fastened to the steering column. Turn signals were a separate part from the airbag system's clockspring, which was a unique piece from the multifunction switch. Each of those bits cost something to produce and procure, not to mention the wiring required to integrate the functions into the car. Supplier problems with just one piece could idle the supply of the whole assembly for days.

Modern serial communication and control systems have created a solution for these problems, and that's the steering column control module, a single component that integrates all the functions of those many individual pieces. The amount of wiring is reduced, reliability is up thanks to new electronic techniques supplanting older wear-prone designs and with fewer contracts to secure and pieces to ship and inventory, a better per-unit cost can be negotiated. TRW's new module includes all sorts of stuff like headlamp switches, turn signals, tilt/telescope control, hazard lamps, steering angle sensor and electronic turn signal cancel, which is unique to the new Ford modules. Tuning to customer preferences reduces complaints and increases satisfaction, too. It may sound a lot more complex, putting a computerized module in place of what was once simple switches and relays, but this is a case of newer being clearly better. Full press release posted after the jump.


Show full PR text
TRW Launches New Turn Signal Cancellation Mechanism on Steering Column Control Modules for Ford Motor Company

LIVONIA, Mich., Jan. 13, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- TRW Automotive Holdings Corp. (NYSE: TRW), the global leader in automotive safety, has launched its next generation Steering Column Control Modules (SCCM) on Ford Motor Company's Super Duty, F-Series, Edge, Explorer and the Lincoln MKX.

The SCCM incorporates high level electronic integration which features functions such as turn signal, headlamp switch inputs, high-low beam selector, front and rear wipe wash, pedal adjust switch, tilt-telescoping steering column switch and motor drivers, hazard warning, steering wheel switch signal processing, steering angle sensing, and the unique feature of electronic turn signal cancel.

TRW's electronic turn signal cancellation features software that can be tuned to any driving situation or customer preference and eliminates customer complaints of failure to cancel. The software based system replaces mechanical mechanisms resulting in lower cost, higher reliability, improved feel, and silent operation. When fully launched, volumes are expected to be approximately 1 million units annually.

In parallel to these launch cycles, TRW is currently developing the next successive generation of SCCM products for Ford's upcoming global vehicle line. The features and benefits of these products will be available to all vehicle manufacturers.

"These programs clearly distinguish TRW as a world leader in the Steering Column Control Module business," says Victor Peltola, sales director for TRW North America Body Control Systems. "We continue to explore ways to add further features and functions to the steering column control modules that help enhance the safety and convenience of onboard systems."


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 37 Comments
      • 4 Years Ago
      Same thing is on the new Grand Cherokee, made by Kostal.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Oh wow Autoblog, GREAT story, that really is amazing technology...



      8 yrs ago. This is NOT new or news.

      • 4 Years Ago
      Yep, "Mr. Smith, your turn signal switch has failed, back in the "Old Days" it would cost you $120.00 parts and alobr, but due t o component integration, it will cost $950.00 plus tax." Yep, love telling people stuff like that.
      And the previous BMW comments while being well put, remember that bit of technology came at a BMW price..
        • 4 Years Ago
        Holy Moses, +1 on that. It's the first thing I thought when I started reading the article. My multifunction turn signal stalk just became 10x more expensive to replace.

        Here's to hoping that the extended life from lower wear offsets the increased replacement cost.
      • 4 Years Ago
      BMW has had this for YEARS
        • 4 Years Ago
        Yeah, I don't see how this is "unique to Ford"... as stated, BMWs (MINI included) have had these for years. The turn signal stalk is nothing but a switch (it returns right away, and has two stages like a camera shutter button). Audi's are also electronic but I think theirs at least "stays".
        • 4 Years Ago
        And so has Audi. And turn signal stalks/switches still fail and cost big bux to fix. If the components were indeed 10 million mile MTBF would be one thing, but they're not to begin with. And once TRW gets the chinese to make the module, or rather the chinese counterfeit the module with cheaper or non-spec components, the failure rate and customer satisfaction goes through the floor.

        • 4 Years Ago
        Yeah, but it doesn't make it better.
      HEY!!!
      • 4 Years Ago
      cool in a making components simpler way.
        • 4 Years Ago
        @HEY!!!
        No, it's not a negative thing. Body computers and control systems have gone a long way to making cars more reliable.

        Remember all the electrical problems that were common before the days of buses and body computers? Remember how thick wiring harnesses used to be?
        • 4 Years Ago
        @HEY!!!
        TigerMil is 100% correct. This should be viewed as a very negative thing for any care owner.
        • 4 Years Ago
        @HEY!!!
        Got a couple of Luddites here. Electrical components have made cars (and their individual parts) far more reliable. Yes points were cheap, but you HAD to replace them regularly.

        It's not that uncommon for a modern car to hit 100k with nothing but fluid changes. Try that in an old car with a simple mechanical turn stalk...
      • 4 Years Ago
      that is some expensive technology
      • 4 Years Ago
      I don't see wtf the fuss is all about, Americans don't know what a turn signal is.... just do without it and make the headlights automatic. Install some other gadget there instead like a cell phone holder or a steering wheel mounted cup holder.

      turn signals are over rated :rolleyes:
      • 4 Years Ago
      As has been said by a few commenters, BMW's have this. I love how it works on my 3 series. You can push the stalk all the way down and it will keep the left blinker on a continuous blink. To cancel it you just tap back down again as opposed to having to pop it back up on a mechanical one. On cars I've driven that have mechanical ones sometimes if you pop it up too hard it can trigger the right turn signal. So I like the quick press to cancel a lot more.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Gee, I wasn't liking the idea until you said that. I've seen some cars that activate their own opposite signal for a partial flash when they cancel, so guess it's a better idea than I thought. But I don't think Ford should be going back to putting the hazard flasher on the column. It belongs on the dash, where you don't have to reach behind the wheel to find it and a passenger can find it easily. But then again, Ford has a long history of trying to hide it and hide the horn. Hope they don't start that again.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Manually cancelling a turn signal _should_ be among the Use Cases that drive design requirements. A well designed turn signal assembly makes it much less likely that you'll go past the middle and flash your other blinker. I know the switch in several 1980s Mercedes I've had was a much nicer unit to use than the one in my 2008 smart.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Integration is all nice and stuff, but sometimes it's just a little too much. I don't want to break a stalk or have a switch go bad and replace the whole unit.

      In my S4 the center display is known to go bad. Only way to fix it was to replace the WHOLE GAUGE CLUSTER just to swap out a little lcd screen (someone eventually came up with a panel to solder on). Same thing with door locks. No individual motors per door. Lets make a central vacuum pump to actuate ALL doors so that if that leaks you have to replace a big expensive unit instead of a cheap electric servo.

      • 4 Years Ago
      So basically this is a turn-by-wire system.

      I believe that other automakers (BMW for one) have been doing this for years. Seems like a natural progression in the advancement of the auto.

      My only problem with these type of systems is that while they SHOULD be cheaper for the carmaker to use, if a customer ever needs to replace one of these computerized units himself, they tend to be ridiculously over-priced when bought from the parts counter and usually offer up almost no way to repair them yourself.
        • 4 Years Ago
        I will take a shot at defining overpriced
        I had to look up Fendi, because I did not know what it was. It is basically a fashion item for those with to much money. For pure functionality a sack for a couple of bucks can do the same job. If you want more style a similar bag without the logo could probably be had for less than a 100 bucks. But I am an engineer fashion is not my forte.

        Now going to this part, I know a thing or two about the pricing of automotive parts. I work for a Euro OEM and a few years back I was responsible for designing the electronic height control system for a heavy vehicle. This system consist of four main components. Height sensor, airsprings, ECU and actuator. The total cost for the OEM of the complete system was less than 100USD. To give you an idea of the markup the Height sensor made by both Dana and Bosch cost less than 7 USD. To purchase one from the dealer the cost is close to 100USD. The ECU was fairly expensive at about 35 USD for the OEM. To buy in a dealership you were closing in at 400USD. Worse still we were able to combine the ECU and actuator as a single unit. Great for manufacturing, and the component cost did not go up for the OEM, but now you could not buy them seperate and the price went up more at the dealership.
        Pieces like this switch are nothing new. Components form the 60's served individual units. by the 70's they combined turn signals, wipers and headlights as a single unit. The 80's added more and now we are getting these more complex units.
        This is done by the OEM for many reasons, one is that customers want more functions in their vehicles and there is a limit on the realestate available to install these. Another is from the manufacturing cost it is less than having to purchase and install the individual components. The downside is that given the 10-1 price cost ratio that are used for OEM parts the cost of the components is very high.
        Where this really effects both the OEM and the consumer is the value of the car after 5 years. Using a BMW 135 for an example, New it is about 30k, after 5 years I would guess around 10k. Now if I have simple parts such as this switch that are prone to brake and cost 1k to replace, this will reduce the value of the car due to its high maintenace cost so instead of 10k it dorps quickly to 5k. This effects the initial buyer as they now have a greater cost doe to the reduced residual value, and makes the car less of a value.
        So yes having a component that represents a significant out of proportion cost relative to the total cost of the vehicle, can make it into an expensive part.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Define overpriced... When a fendi bag still costs into the thousands of dollars, I think getting a sophisticated piece of electronic equipment designed by top minds from an industry that has fuel most mechanical innovation for the past century for $585 is not bad.
        • 4 Years Ago
        @Kelah:

        Your comment about googling a fendi bag cracked me up- you are truly an engineer... You make some valid points, however you're completely forgetting the business case for economies of scale. Sure, a part may cost $7 to manufacture, but thats only if they are manufacturing 10 or 10 million of them. (I pulled those numbers out of my ass) Why shouldn't the manufacturer recoup some of this profit?

        @Hazdaz:

        You are correct about cars becoming more complex, and less-repairable. But they also are a million times safer and much, MUCH more reliable than old cars... all while connecting to your smartphone, giving you directions, playing your ipod, managing your transmission for optimal fuel efficiency, and preventing your distracted ass from fish-tailing into a guard rail.

        So you say that consolidation has gone too far... Why? What are we losing? The fact of the matter is, that if people actually wanted a simple, repairable car, they would buy them: and right now, they don't.

        @Annie:

        Exactly. I'm sure that these companies have studied the average problems for these new components vs all the old ones, and I can guarantee that on average, it is signifigantly cheaper for the consumer with the new parts. IMO, the manufacturer has saved me the grief of having to take my car into the shop, worry about THAT guy ripping me off... etc. and deserve to make a profit on it.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Kelah makes a good point about resale value, and if car manufacturers are integrating a low reliability component into complex modules than they are rightly criticized.

        But increased integration of electronics has a real chance of increasing component reliability enough that the module reliability is still much higher than the individual components, to the extent that the cost of replacing several inexpensive mechanical parts due to multiple small failures is still more than the cost of replacing one expensive integrated module.

        I'm not sure if I want to be replacing a turn signal stalk on a 5 year-old car if the airbag firing module is anywhere near it. How would I know that everything still works?

        But a separate issue is parts markup. When you only sold $50 parts, the markup could be 10x and the price might still seem reasonable. But this logic does not hold when the price is $1000 and the part costs $100 to manufacture. For high cost parts, the cost structure needs to be rethought. A little 'disintermediation' (like Dell did for computers) could not hurt, but that would require more component standardization.
        • 4 Years Ago
        @ trustedcarsalesman

        I am not disputing (nor complaining) that overall, cars are MUCH more reliable than older cars... but its not all sunshine and roses.

        In the old days, if something broke, you could probably jerry-rig it on the side of the road to get you home or allow you to fix it "good enough" to drive it around for a while. Now, not so much... sometimes even when something is NOT broken, but a sensor says it is, the computer won't let you even drive it.

        And god forbid you break one small part of a large assembly - you are looking at BIG bucks to replace it (cuz there is no repairing it). I've been in many older cars where the heater or AC knob (or something similar) had broken off. You could still turn the metal post and get the desired setting, but obviously it didn't look as pretty. What happens now though if you crack the LCD screen on some of these newer cars? You're screwed... on many of these systems you can't chance the AC/heat settings. Navigation is toast. Even radio controls are done for. You could probably live without the heat for a few months if it was summertime, but just to get the radio working again, you probably have to drop $1000 to replace the whole infotainment unit. Ouch.

        Also Toyota's recent history is a very good example of when stuff gets too complicated. Toyotas up until the early '00s had an amazing reputation for quality and durability... then Toyota started adding too many gizmoes, too much computer complexity into their cars and I would say that a brand new Camry today isn't as reliable as one from 2000 because of it.

        And with that complexity as come consolidation... too much consolidation sometimes. That recent gas pedal issue is just one example - its a gas-by-wire system where a computer lets the engine know how much gas the driver is asking for. But because its electronic and not mechanical, Toyota (and government agencies) are/were having a hell of a time finding the root cause of those acceleration problems. Electrons racing around a circuitboard don't quite give the same amount of evidence that a pinched cable or worn bushing would if it was a mechanical system. Also if it was a mechanical system, you could probably push up on the pedal if it got stuck, but with an electronic system, if the computer has some glitch and is reading that the driver wants WOT, it doesn't matter where the pedal physically is located.

        I am not trying to sound like a Luddite, because I love technology, but extra care needs to be put into some of these more complex/consolidated assemblies that are replacing good old hardware switches. There should be redundancies to assure that they are accurate and designed to be robust to take the abuse that comes with something that should last at least a decade of use.
        • 4 Years Ago
        @ trustedcarsalesman

        I am not going to comment on whatever fashion accessories you are sporting this season, but overpriced in the car world is when a component saves a company X% when it comes to building their cars, but that cost-savings never gets passed down to consumers when purchased aftermarket (because of a repair, accident, theft, whatever) it actually costs MORE than the previous mechanical part.

        Also there is the very real issue that when something mechanical breaks, chances are it is repairable to some extent. You aren't going to repair electronic components - if a board breaks, you are toast. And with these consolidated parts, if just one little thing goes bad, you are replacing the whole thing.

        A perfect example of this one-step-forward-two-steps-back approach is a car's ECU.
        While ECUs have done a phenomenal job at making cars more efficient, reliable, cleaner and more powerful, to buy an ECU from a part's counter is easy $500 or more. Yet the technology inside an ECU is on par from a computer from 20 years ago... components that shouldn't cost more than maybe $5 or so.

        Now I am not going to argue that technology (for the most part) is a very good thing that has improved cars rather dramatically, but sometimes consolidation goes too far. For an extreme example, just look at most modern consumer gadgets - very, very few of them are repairable at all. Most have become throw-away items that when something wears, cracks, breaks, etc, its thrown into the trash bin.
      • 4 Years Ago
      One thing to ponder: As these parts become more integrated and the subsystems replace solid electronics instead of mechanical parts, why can't car designers, design in first place cars that are easy to service so the average Joe can order online the part and plug-and-play instead of the defective part? If they can do that, we take out the dealer's overpriced servicing department out of the equation/
      • 4 Years Ago
      I wonder who else will use this setup besides Ford. I'm sure TRW will sell it to the other auto companies.
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