It turns on a dime.
Automotive industry supplier ZF has developed a new steering system that allows cars to drive sideways.
At least the front of the cars.
The EasyTurn system uses a unique strut suspension setup that lets the front wheels turn 80 degrees, more than twice that of a regular system.
According to MotorTrend, the system adds a link between the tie rod and steering rack that increases the articulation far beyond the standard design.
ZF has installed it onto an electric BMW i3 to demonstrate how a car can make a U-turn by essentially pivoting around the rear wheels within the space of a single lane road.
The feature also lets drivers pull into smaller parallel parking spaces much more easily than using the traditional method.
With the EasyTurn, the car just needs to be backed into the space at an angle and the wheels turned toward the curb to swing the front of the car in.
MotorTrend notes that the biggest hurdle for incorporating this sort of system into a vehicle is packaging, and that it would be difficult to find enough room under the hood for the wheels to move through the full range of motion needed with an engine in the way.
Many electric cars remove this barrier and currently use that space for an extra trunk that could be shaped around the wheels.
In-wheel electric motors would also eliminate the need for driveshafts that wouldn’t be compatible with the large steering angle while still providing four-wheel-drive capability.
ZF hasn’t announced plans for any automakers to put it into production yet, but advanced steering systems are becoming more and more common on high-end vehicles.
The Mercedes EQS, for example, has a system that turns the rear wheels a few degrees opposite the fronts to reduce the full-size sedan’s turning radius to that of a compact car.
The GMC Hummer EV uses a similar system, but adds the capability to turn the rear wheels up to 10 degrees in the same direction as the fronts to allow the vehicle to drive diagonally at low speeds in what it calls Crab Walk mode.