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1. (US20030146037) Hand wheel actuator
Nota: Texto obtenido mediante procedimiento automático de reconocimiento óptico de caracteres.
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We claim:

1. A hand wheel actuator for providing force feedback to a user, the actuator comprising:
a steering shaft having an upper end configured for attaching a hand wheel, said steering shaft being supported by bearings such that is rotatable about its own axis;
a position sensor detecting an angular displacement of said steering shaft from a selected origin and producing a signal indicative of said angular displacement;
an electric motor;
a transmission means operatively connecting an output shaft of said electric motor to said steering shaft; and
a variable stopper stopping rotation of said steering shaft at an arbitrary location independent from actuation of said electric motor.
 
2. The hand wheel actuator of claim 1, said variable stopper comprising a magnetic rheological fluid device operatively connected to said steering shaft.
 
3. The hand wheel actuator of claim 2, wherein said variable stopper is configured to stop travel of said hand wheel when steerable road wheels have reached their steering limit and said hand wheel has not, a control unit passes a current through wiring in said magnetic rheological fluid device.
 
4. The hand wheel actuator of claim 3, wherein when said control unit detects that said hand wheel is rotated towards a center position, said control unit responds by cutting power to said wiring in said magnetic rheological fluid device.
 
5. The hand wheel actuator of claim 1, wherein stopping rotation of said steering shaft at an arbitrary location is in response to signals from a control unit.
 
6. The hand wheel actuator of claim 5, wherein said control unit is programmed to employ said variable stopper in situations responsive to excessive at least one of yaw, lateral acceleration, understeer, oversteer, overturning, and vehicle speeds.
 
7. The hand wheel actuator of claim 5, wherein said control unit is independently communicated with said electric motor and said variable stopper.
 
8. The hand wheel actuator of claim 1 further comprising a spring-biased mechanical return-to-center device for providing resistance against turning said steering shaft away from a central position, said mechanical return-to-center device being operatively connected to said steering shaft.
 
9. The hand wheel actuator of claim 1 farther comprising a positive travel end stopper limiting angular displacement of said steering shaft to a selected limit.
 
10. The hand wheel actuator of claim 9 wherein said selected limit is ±540°.
 
11. The hand wheel actuator of claim 1, wherein said electric motor is operably connected to said upper end of said shaft while said variable stopper is operably connected to a lower end of said shaft opposite said upper end.
 
12. The hand wheel actuator of claim 1, wherein said variable stopper is configured to stop travel of said hand wheel when steerable road wheels have reached their steering limit.
 
13. A method for feedback in a steering actuator comprising:
detecting an angular displacement of a steering shaft from a selected origin and producing a signal indicative of said angular displacement;
operating an electric motor operatively connected to said steering shaft in response to signals from a control unit; and
stopping rotation of said steering shaft at an arbitrary location in response to signals from a control unit independent from actuation of said electric motor.
 
14. The method of claim 13, wherein
said stopping comprises applying a magnetic field to a magnetic rheological fluid device operatively connected to said steering shaft.
 
15. The method of claim 13 further comprising providing resistance against turning said steering shaft away from a central position using a spring-biased mechanical return-to-center device that is operatively connected to said steering shaft.
 
16. The method of claim 13 further comprising limiting angular displacement of said steering shaft to a fixed selected limit using a positive travel end stopper.
 
17. The method of claim 16 wherein said fixed selected limit is ±540° from a central position.