Monday Snippets

The Globe and Mail, from Canada (my second home and native land) give room for some acceptance of the 9-7x into the Saab family of vehicles.

First obvious question — is the 9-7X a Saab? Well, I was going to go all nostalgic and curmudgeonly here, and say, no. But the reality is, yes, the 9-7X is a product of what Saab is today. Which is to say, a division of a global car company that’s trying to build into its vehicles the attributes that created the brand’s reputation.

And you know, it’s not doing a bad job. The 9-7X may not be a traditional Saab vehicle, but it does incorporate at least some of the things that appealed to buyers of the brand. And my guess is it will sell in numbers that keep it exclusive.

It’s another good, quick review. Everyone that’s tested this vehicle in North America seems to come away from it suitably impressed. Not sure about their Euro colleagues (actually, I’m not even sure about the few markets that are starting to take the 9-7x into their showrooms).


A site that I don’t know much about at all, Red Orbit, has a story on the development of drive-by-wire technology, featuring a Saab-based vehicle named as a ‘Novanta’. Drive by wire is the emerging technology whereby a lot of your traditional mechanical devices are replaced by electronic switches and sensors. Very 22nd century if you ask me, though it’ll probably be available in less than 10 years.

Drive-by-wire, already used widely in planes, where it is known as fly-by-wire, means employing electronics, rather than mechanical and hydraulic systems, to operate a vehicle: Steering columns and brake lines give way to sensors and actuators. Steering wheels can be replaced with joysticks or driver control units and human-machine interfaces.

SKF, a Swedish auto supplier known best for making bearings and seals, is one of the companies trying for a piece of the market. Among the others are Delphi Corp., Siemens VDO Automotive and Robert Bosch GmbH.

SKF has placed drive-by-wire technology in several prototype vehicles, including General Motors Corp.’s fuel-cell-powered Hy-Wire, and the Novanta, a Saab-based concept developed with Italian design house Bertone. SKF also developed fly-by-wire technology used in several Airbus models.

SKF demonstrated Novanta last week at the Compuware Arena, down the street from SKF’s North American technical center in Plymouth.

Novanta has no accelerator or brake pedals — only a mechanism called a human-machine interface that looks like a cross between an airplane steering wheel and the handlebars of a motorcycle. Rotate the handles back and forth to throttle the car up or down; squeeze them to brake, turn them side-to-side to steer.

The SKF system uses sensors to read the driver’s actions and transfer the information to controllers called smart electro-mechanical actuators. The actuators convert electrical energy into force to perform vehicle functions.

When the driver attempts to turn the car, for example, sensors, rather than a steering column, send that information to the steering rack to turn the wheels.

In addition to the technologies found in Novanta, SKF is working on by-wire systems to handle emergency brakes and clutches. Eventually, it hopes to develop suspension-by-wire to improve vehicle ride and handling, said Steven F. Brown, director of North America programs for SKF’s drive-by-wire business unit.


The new 9-5 debuted at the New England International Auto Show last weekend. It looks like it may make it’s first UK appearance at the MPH show, which starts it’s first showing from the 10-13 November in Birmingham, before moving to London from the 17-20 November.

Carpages are stating that Saab will unveil a new model at MPH and I can’t think of what else it might be, unless it’s a Hirsch 9-5 or some other supermodel suited to the occasion.


Speaking of Hirsch, a benevolent stranger left some photos of a new Hirsch 9-5 on my electronic doorstep over the weekend. I’ll get around to making some sense of them in the next few days.

How about a Hirsch 9-7x? Apparently the Swiss tuning company has one in the garage. I’m awaiting some more info and will share the news when I know a little more.

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  1. The Saab 9-5 already features drive-by-wire electronic throttle, as do many other cars. Mercs and maybe some Lexiusseses have brake by wire now too.

  2. For about ten years, Saab has experimentet with different types of controls. I know they have tried joystick instead of a steering wheel. One problem with that was that people tend to like the fact that the can “hold on” to the steering wheel and that they felt more “secure” behind it. Can’t imagine myself steering my Saab with a joystick, but maybe it’s just me… 🙂

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