New for 2016, GM will offer a new type of heavy-duty steering setup on its GMC Sierra 2500/3500 pickup trucks called Active Steering Assist. No doubt this new system will also be available on the 2016 Chevrolet Silverado HD, but that information won't come out for two weeks.
ASA is designed to help big, hard-working pickups move and respond like smaller, less loaded vehicles, providing the driver with more predictability and requiring less overall effort. Because of their heavy-duty recirculating ball technology, HD pickups were commonly criticized for heavy, sluggish steering because they were designed to handle more strenuous work-duty cycles than normal cars or light-duty pickups.
Most half-tons today have electric steering, meaning software programming provides a variable steering speed ratio that can change based on vehicle speed or steering inputs. This new Active Steering Assist system, while still using a basic recirculating ball strategy, now has an additional valve and control module that provides added boost and support when and where the driver most needs it. The new setup should make steering the 2016 models easier overall, allowing more confident handling, and making empty or loaded driving a more stable, less fatiguing experience.
Specifically, the new system provides benefits in four key areas because the control module uses various sensors around the truck to both predict and support the current driving situation by constantly measuring vehicle speed, steering wheel position and steering pressure.
- ASA can vary the steering speed and feel depending on how fast the truck is moving — moving slowly in parking lots means it will provide more boost to be more nimble. At higher speeds, the boost and feel will decrease to allow for more gradual and smoother turning.
- ASA provides a little bit of a return boost after a corner to send the steering wheel back to center quicker, allowing the wheel to slide faster through the hands of the driver back to center. Those who have driven long-bed crew cabs know how difficult navigating a big truck around tight parking lots can be, so having a steering wheel that gets back to center faster will only help, especially when towing.
- ASA has a learning program that senses the crown of a country road as the driver provides continuous inputs over time to keep the truck running straight. The computer senses this and provides the level of boost needed to keep the steering wheel steady and straight so the driver doesn't have to. When the driver makes a small input or turn, the system defaults back to a neutral setting.
- The ASA computer program has a unique set of parameters when the Tow/Haul mode is engaged that gives it an extra level of boost and computer speed sensing to provide a better and less fatiguing towing experience. Tow/Haul mode now affects steering the same way it affects throttle response and transmission shifting.
ASA will only be available on extended- and crew-cab models, and will not be included on the base Work Truck trim or with regular-cab trucks. In both cases, we were told having less technology means GM can keep the pricing more competitive.
Editor's note: On Sept. 14 PickupTrucks.com was informed that GMC has chosen a different name for this new technology; it will be called Digital Steering Assist.