New steering technology by Nissan is taking the idea of power steering to the next level. Their latest innovation, drive-by-wire steering, is intended to make cars safer and could be in their Infinitis next year.
Essentially, Nissan has re-developed the means by which the steering wheel directs the car. In most cars, the steering wheel is connected directly to the axles, making steering an entirely manual effort. The drive-by-wire idea is to take away that direct connection, instead directing the instructions from the wheel through several electronic systems and from there to the wheels. The systems have built-in redundancies and a fail-safe emergency clutch to return control to the driver should the electric systems fail. There is an additional system made to help maintain lanes—while this technology is available in other cars, the Nissan cars would have this information relayed automatically to the wheels, reducing or eliminating the need for minute changes from the driver.
What’s to be gained?
One advantage of this steering system is that the removal of the manual connection means that bumps or shifts in the road do not affect the steering wheel. Therefore, road bumps or manhole covers would not make the car swerve or the wheel shudder. Despite detractors saying that it would feel disconnected and like video game driving, test groups have said the electric steering actually makes them feel closer to the road. It also gives a boost to fuel economy as it’s lighter and doesn’t require an engine-driven pump. However, the main advantage is in safety. The system minimizes the effects of jerky steering that could steer a car into a ditch or another car. Also, the system has a built-in collision-avoidance that detects dangers while simultaneously finding a safe escape route, and will drive into that route itself if the driver does not respond in time.
The new drive-by-wire technology is designed to reduce accidents. According to Nissan spokesperson Tetsuya Iijima, “The ultimate goal is to reduce fatalities involving our brands to ‘substantially zero,’…In our minds, there is no such thing as an acceptable fatality.”