Wheel alignment is an exact science, but a one-size-fits-all exact science. Camber, caster and tracking cannot be changed once the technicians have completed their work beyond what the suspension provides. Thanks to a piece in New Atlas via Motor1, we know that an Australian company called DOFTEK believes the automotive world can do better. The DOFTEK Active Wheel Alignment System (AWAS) has been in development for two years to enable cars to adjust the three alignment orientations on the fly. This provides a better contact patch during everyday driving and becomes especially useful for maneuvers such as tight turns.
Founded by husband and wife team Geoff and Priscilla Rogers and their business partner Dr. Paul Dowie, Geoff said that automakers have been working on their own systems for about 15 years, but couldn’t crack the cost, complexity and weight. He didn’t explain how DOFTEK did that, but the company’s list of benefits to AWAS reads like the list of treatments of a 19th-century patent drug that fixes everything from gout to wickedness. The AWAS fits any suspension layout, from MacPherson struts to dual wishbones to multi-link and rear wheel steer cars. It also fits commercial trucks and trailer wheels. It adds about a kilo per installation, so placing it on all four corners of a car would add about nine pounds. It can lower rolling resistance to save fuel or increase the range of an electric car, reduce tire wear in general and uneven tire wear in particular, lower tire temperatures, reduce tire noise and improve noise, vibration and harshness.
The AWAS consists of two electromechanical devices, one placed on the OEM suspension for swap wheels and camber, one placed on the pull rod for toe swap. A DOFTEK control unit communicates with the car’s primary ECU to decide on adjustments. The first version of the system, developed on an Audi TTRS, used a three-position controller. Normally the camber did not change, Sport changed camber -1.5 degrees and Sport + changed camber -3 degrees. Geoff said the prototype produced a 10% drop in rolling resistance and tire temperatures, and a 15% increase in handling.
The second prototype is being developed on a Mercedes-AMG GT S, and has been upgraded with the ability to adapt camber specifically to each wheel – the right wheel can go -2.8 degrees of camber, while the left -0.2 degrees through a left hand goes. turning, for example. The derivative unit can be controlled by the driver, like the first prototype, or left on its own to make dynamic adjustments. Geoff said the benefits are even better, the varied camber settings improve handling by up to 29%. We’d expect a bit of positive camber on that inner wheel, but we’re not clear about the baselines, nor is it clear how DOFTEK measures handling performance. (Mercedes has also implemented its Dual Axis Steering on-the-fly toe-in system on its Formula 1 cars this season.)
Geoff said the company is in talks with OEMs. Once business development starts to become the norm, DOFTEK will focus on luxury and performance vehicles for the first applications, and then electric vehicles.