GM to Offer Active Steering Assist Technology

2016 Sierra All Terrain 2500 II

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 was informed that GMC has chosen a different name for this new technology; it will be called Digital Steering Assist.

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Using computers to control steering now too? This sounds like a disaster waiting to happen.

That's what GM is good at though....shoddy engineering.


Not available on work trucks?? What's the point?

"Not available on work trucks?? What's the point?"

It means higher profit margins for them as they get to sell you a fully loaded truck with a bunch of extra crap.

This article points out one of several reasons I finally gave up on GM and went to Ram. Ponderous steering in the GM 1-ton trucks. The Ram, and even the Ford, have much quicker and more precise steering control. I've owned all three. Never again will I buy a GM vehicle. Burned more then three times, serious shame on me for thinking surely the General couldn't build that many bad ones. It sure is nice to not have my truck spend so much time in the shop.


No, steering wheel/driver still determines where the truck is pointed. Computers/sensors are used to determine steering "feel" that's it...

Even my 10yr old son could have gotten that from the article.

I don't get it... Why would people expect a big, heavy duty, loaded pickup monster to handle like a fine Cadillac? I'm not saying handling should be terrible, but you can't expect them to have super sharp handling.

@Sandman " 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.."

The article clearly states that the system can create boost to turn the wheel in the opposite direction.

Even my 8 year old son could read the words in this article.

It makes me laugh reading comments from people that know nothing about how some of these vehicle systems work.

Looks like Chrysler is the only one left out.

@ Warazawanga, why you ask? Because GM owners are the ones complaining about it, anyone who has owned a ford or ram already expects their vehicles to run well, and in this case turn well, this is why GM is a follower and not a leader

They don't have problems turning (even with 800-900 lbs plow on the front) But in this age of people buying overpriced 50k$+ trucks they need new fancy things to offer these people with deep pockets. don't you know over 50% of gmc 2500hds had the denali trim on them. now thats a crazy stat.

This is good.

Many might not realise this but most every commercial jet that flies is flying by "wire".

The pilot only inputs the general direction he wants to travel in and the computer nuts out what the aircraft can achieve to make the pilots intended direction change.

There will be differences between steering and controlling a huge number of flight control surfaces.


Good job GM! Making the best trucks in the world even better, with the best engineers, and engineering you'll ever find.

Extra boost to return the wheel to centre would be nice when one gets into a situation where the truck starts to slide. Steering tends to get very heavy when that happens.

johnny doe - "with the best engineers, and engineering you'll ever find."

"Ever find"............ it did take the courts and the NHTSA a long time to "Ever find" whom to blame for that ignition switch fiasco.


With that being said, I really like the GMT K2XX trucks.

Just towed a trailer weighing over 13,500lbs with my old Chevy eclb yesterday. It steered plenty easy. Do some real work, build some muscle and quit whining. I like GM, but I see another electronic do-dad waiting to fail. So do mechanics who have to fix this stuff.

@mark49 I agree this is totally pointless, but its needed so the he she ford girlie guys can handle a real man's truck. Had no problem steering my friend's 09 2500 6.0L with 25 ft trailer stacked 7ft high with square bales. No problems steering that same truck with a 9 foot western snow plow either for 10 hours straight. Yup it sucks Ford has to build women's trucks and force everyone to follow.

"Ever find"............ it did take the courts and the NHTSA a long time to "Ever find" whom to blame for that ignition switch fiasco.

Posted by: Lou_BC | Sep 14, 2015 3:16:31 PM

Do tell,laughing azz Lou
How many GM trucks had ignition problems??

@Warazawanga Not that a "road barge" Cadillac should ever be considered an example of responsive steering. A BMW on the other hand...

Only reason they do this is for profit and for the service departments to keep busy. this will be a 5 year issue on the diesels with a little light that pops on the dash to send her in after the 3/36 warranty is up. oh its just a 100 dollar bill... for them to clear the light and do 30 or 40 a day. If they didnt do this they wouldnt be in business. lets just be glad that it will someway somehow benefit someone........

I seem to recall when ANY American full-size truck could be steered with your pinky finger. Recirc ball steering and no computers.
And a truck does NOT need electric power steering to have variable ratio or even speed sensitive steering (although that DOES require computer controls. Electric power steering is strictly for fuel economy.

Have to try it before I can comment how good it is. But I do like the concept. Just another first for GM while the competition falls farther behind.

Mr Knowitall,
Recirulating Ball steering isn't as good as rack and pinion. Yes they were available in the trucks of old.

I'd also bet that if enough electric steering units are manufacturerd they could be cheaper than the hydraulic steering units.

Also, the management of electro-hydraulic devices is more involved than using a pure electric system.

As you mentioned it will reduce fuel usage as the how often is a constantly turning hydraulic power steering pump is actually operating?

Another area is safety. You will not need a steering column. This will also reduce costs and free up the engine bay to be more flexible.

So its like the next step in power steering?... Just like adding another gear to an auto tranny, variable valve timing, better braking... I don't know fill in the blank on whatever is naturally next...

Big Al from Oz - currently there are no drive by wire systems on vehicles. We have either hydraulic power "assist" or electric power assist. If either system fails then we have the default "arm strong" steering. These systems just augment our direct input.

Ever wonder why trucks used to have extremely large steering wheels?
or why steering wheels were mounted more vertically?

They used to be completely mechanical with no assist.

Currently their is "drive by wire" tech in automobiles.

How do you think your engine and transmission operate?

Every aspect of your engine and transmission is schedules and biased via your speed, accelerator position, traction, stability, etc.

There is no cable between the throttle pedal and engine.

You press the accelerator pedal, the computers senses it's position and the computer then commands the engine to provide more power.

This power is generated by matching set parameters for emissions, FE, etc. The engine will not exceed the set parameters.

No different than how an aircraft fly by wire system operates.

This fly by wire steering will be an addition to the current computerisaton of the automobile.

Big Al from Oz - I was referring to steering. I'll try to be more specific when I know you are blogging.

It will be no different in operation than how the engine is controlled.

Input = a response controlled by a computer to suit set parameters.

Just transfer the same "stuff" across. It's all the same.

@BigAl - I looked it up and Infiniti so far has 1 car with drive by wire. It took around 10 years to develop.

I suspect that "steer by wire" will eventually move to the auto industry across the board but the question will be in relation to liability in the even of an computer failure or power failure. How many backup redundant systems are present on an airplane?? and how many are they willing to install on a car or truck just in case of a main failure?

I have had a power failure on the assisted steering, while I was driving. I can tell you the steering became VERY HEAVY. I would hate to be driving at a considerable speed

This seems like an expensive solution to a problem that doesn't exist.

Robert Ryan - I had a Chevy van that had an engine failure and I was going down a hill. Like your scenario it was low speed. No fun but doable. I've talked to helicopter pilots who have to do auto-rotation drills with hydraulics "on" and hydraulics "off". They said the drills are hard but in real life real easy because adrenalin kicks in.

There is no such thing as 'electric steering' in half ton trucks. There is electric power assist servomechanism, which has less parasitic draw than hydraulic power steering assist servo.
Nissan/Infiniti has an optional system that is steer-by-wire, and is universally hated. (and has all the conventional hardware still there)

George - exactly my earlier point. You either have electric assist or hydraulic assist. A failure means old school arm strong steering.

@George, @Lou, @Big Al - I have had the electric assist fail in a 2014 Buick Encore (rental). I will tell you that it is far easier to steer an old International Loadstar 1700 with manual steering than that tiny shoebox with no assist on the rack and pinion. I feel rack and pinion has no place on any truck, especially an HD model. I may be wrong, but I feel the recirculating ball is much stronger. To the best of my knowledge, all big trucks are still using them. In my younger days I built, repaired, tested and programmed computers. They can- and will fail at some point. Steer by wire would create huge liability issues if expensive redundant systems are not used- just like Lou said.

Hmmm... Benefits and drawbacks; I see both in this concept and finding the right balance is going to be more difficult than they imagine.

As drivers, most of us prefer to have a good 'feel' of the road under our hands in order to make the correct responses to changing road conditions. It is far too easy to over- or under-control even with pure manual steering, much less the power assist we currently receive in most cars today. Some cars and trucks both often get a review of "numb steering feel" and I can attest to that myself in a Ford Fiesta now two months ago where the steering assist manufactured a "heavy" feel in an effort to simulate a more manual steering environment. Honestly, a variable boost like the old power steering system would have been far better as the car is already light enough that you don't need any kind of boost at highway speed. But...

Okay, this system is supposed to give a light-car feel to a heavy truck, no matter the load conditions. Is that really safe? Wouldn't that make the driver tend to oversteer under a heavy load, potentially dumping that load on the road, even if it didn't have more catastrophic effects? Wouldn't it tend to make the driver over-drive the truck as they try to drive it like a sports car? I'm sorry, the drawbacks here seem far too extreme to make it worth the effort.

On the other hand, you do have to admit that when loaded especially, turning the steering wheel can still be a task, especially if it has a high number of lock-to-lock turns. This boost could let them use a steering ratio low enough that three or four turns lock-to-lock is still easier to manhandle in tight cornering situations such as backing a trailer or squeezing into a tight alleyway.

So how do we find the ideal balance? Do we boost it so much that all you need is fewer turns of the wheel to get lock-to-lock maneuverability, losing almost all feel of the road itself, or do we figure out how to modulate that and keep the driver from over-steering at speed? I know they're going to try for both, but will they succeed?

I hope they don't make them just like the Dodges and Fords,they are way to touchy for me.My Chevy feels way more solid.

Ah Sheesh, I've got a 1997 K1500 with the "Variable Power Steering Assist" that SHOULD have been subject to a recall. The steering angle sensor fails (no code) then the truck darts from side to side as steering boost cuts in and out. AS IF it is trying to kill you. Don't think I'll trust the General for "Generation II" until it's been out... maybe a DECADE.

New for 2016, gm will provide you the latest type of heavy duty steering setup in the car, it will help to support both predict and prevent several accidents the car.

I'm currently driving a gmc 2500 Denali with Active Steering Assist its absolutely great has a much better feeling than previous models and I also have a Ford F-350 powerstroke pickup truck I will just tell you guys ford is playing catchup with GM vehicles there is just no way ford can come anywhere close
To the towing feels of a duramax truck driver

I'm currently driving a gmc 2500 Denali with Active Steering Assist its absolutely great has a much better feeling than previous models and I also have a Ford F-350 powerstroke pickup truck I will just tell you guys ford is playing catchup with GM vehicles there is just no way ford can come anywhere close
To the towing feels of a duramax truck driver

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