The prestigious 2003 German business innovation award was conferred to the BMW Group in the category 'major enterprises' for the development and introduction of the active steering system. The award ceremony took place in the Alte Oper in Frankfurt on Saturday evening, January 24th, on the occasion of a gala evening with around 2,000 guests organized by the German industry. Edelgard Bulmahn, the Federal Minister of Education and Research, gave the price to Professor Dr. Burkhard Goeschel, board member of the BMW AG and in charge of research and development. The active steering system won the much-vaunted innovation prize for enhancing motoring comfort, agility and safety while providing driving pleasure at its best. For these reasons the BMW active steering system was already given the Technology Award of the Year 2004 by the American "Automobile Magazine" and the Trophée d'Innovation 2003 by the French car magazine "L'Automobile Magazine".
The revolutionary active steering system solves the trade-off between an agile, sports-oriented steering system layout and a more comfortable design, thus fulfilling an old dream of all suspension engineers. This system was developed by BMW in cooperation with the ZF Lenksysteme GmbH, based in Schwäbisch Gmünd. For the first time, this system does away with the fixed ratio between steering-wheel angle and wheel deflection, offering the ideal steering ratio at all speeds. The steering column incorporates a planetary gearbox with servo motor, which increases wheel deflection at low speeds and reduces it at high speeds.
This concept increases the car's agility on winding roads as steering is much more direct. The driver needs to turn the steering wheel much less and with much less effort. The system boosts not only dynamics and agility but also comfort. Getting into a parking space, for example, requires no more than two steering-wheel revolutions instead of the conventional three to turn the wheels from right to left and vice versa. At high speeds on the motorway, small unintentional movements of the steering wheel (when driving on a bumpy surface, for example) have a reduced influence on directional stability due to the reduced steering angle. Thanks to the somewhat more indirect steering, the car stays on track as if it were running on rails. By communicating with the DSC Dynamic Stability Control, the system identifies oversteering tendencies at an early stage (in case of a sudden evasive maneuver, for example), correcting this behavior and stabilizing the car through automatic countersteering, a process hardly noticeable to the driver. As an option, the active steering system is also available in the new BMW 5 Series models and the 6 Series models. This system has immediately achieved an equipment proportion of 40%.
The bestowal of the German business innovation award honors the fact that the introduction of the revolutionary steering system makes BMW the first car manufacturer worldwide to offer the optimum synthesis of agility, tracking stability, comfort, and safety. The German business innovation award was introduced back in 1980 by the Rhein-Main e. V. business club and is considered the most important prize of its kind in Germany. The award is presented each year in cooperation with the expert magazine "WirtschaftsWoche" and is awarded in three categories: major enterprises, medium-sized companies, and start-ups. In the category 'medium-sized companies' the Schollglas GmbH, based in Isenhagen, won the prize for the development of a special-purpose glass for emergency windows in coaches and track vehicles. When the glass is smashed, it does not splinter. Instead, it breaks along a given seam and rolls up, enabling passengers to get out of the vehicle without any risk of injury. Among start-up companies, the NaWoTec GmbH, based in Rossdorf, finished first with the presentation of a nanotechnological procedure which facilitates repair work on extremely expensive masks required for the production of semiconductor chips. In all, more than 320 firms competed for an award in one of the three categories.