October 17, 2012
Nissan Adding Steer-By-Wire To Some Infiniti Vehicles
Michael Harper for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online
Anyone who´s ever dreamt of controlling their automobile in the same way they controlled the frog in Frogger during the heyday of the 80s may have something to jump about in the near future.
Steering is one of the only remaining ways in which driving is done analog, old-school style. Sure, it´s helped along by power steering, but should this mechanism fail, a car can still be steered with the wheel, albeit with a little difficulty. Nissan´s new plan could move the simple wheel into the electronic age and maybe even remove it from the car altogether. Steering-by-wire means the commands normally given to the car though the mechanical wheel would be given via electronic pulses, and possibly by means of a joystick.
As told by Reuters, Nissan said during a press briefing yesterday that they will be introducing this new technology in their Infiniti line within a year. In the future, these electronically steered cars could not only ship with a classic gaming relic as a controller, but could also help prevent crashes electronically.
These new Infiniti cars will have the same benefit of crash-avoidance, but will still arrive with the familiar steering wheel.
For all their benefits, electronic components are capable of failing from time to time. Nissan is prepared for this, saying they´ll also have a backup clutch which will link the wheel and the tires together mechanically so a human can take over in times of duress or emergency.
“In the future, if we are freed from that, we would be able to place the steering wheel wherever we like, such as in the back seat, or it would be possible to steer the car with a joystick,” said Nissan engineer Masaharu Satou.
Nissan showed off this new technology to reporters last Friday before making their official announcement on Tuesday.
When drivers begin to navigate these new, steer-by-wire vehicles, they´ll notice an improved driving experience, says Nissan, as the driver´s commands will be received by the steering system more quickly than the current hydraulic and mechanical one.
Furthermore, these drivers wouldn´t have to feel all the bumps on the road through the wheel, as the new system could simply remove this feedback.
"For example, even on a road surface with minor ridges or furrows, the driver no longer has to grip the steering wheel tightly and make detailed adjustments, so traveling on the intended path becomes easier," said Nissan in a statement.
Nissan also demonstrated the new system´s ability to steer away from an object or another vehicle if it detects an imminent crash. Using a combination of cameras, lasers and radars, the entire system can “know” when the risk arises of colliding with another vehicle or some other object. If there is a free zone, said Satou, the car will drive there.
As noted to the BBC, other attempts to delegate analog tasks to an electronic system haven´t always been well received. Mercedes Benz, for instance, began using a brake-by-wire system in 2004. They, too, used a backup should the electronic system fail. The problem was, however, that these systems failed more often than they should have, resulting in longer stopping times for the drivers. Mercedes recalled nearly 2 million vehicles with this new breaking system and removed the feature from their line.
Nissan isn´t the first to show off this technology, only the first to bring it to the consumer market. Though Infiniti will get this feature first, this new steering system will likely make its way to the general market within 5 years.