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Force feedback steering wheels are fairly common, but I don't understand how they work.

Specifically, how does a "direct drive"($$$) steering wheel apply a force one way while moving in another direction and know in which position it is (I can understand the software but not how the hardware actually does what it's told to do).

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The force is supplied by an electric motor. The position is determined by an encoder on the shaft. These things are independent of each other.

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