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Nissan’s unveiled the world’s first fly-by-wire steering system, completely eliminating the mechanical connection between the wheel in your hands and the wheels on the road. Although the automaker insists the system will enhance the driving experience, it’s also a big step toward a fully autonomous vehicle.

Lots of automakers offer electrically assisted power-steering systems, but Nissan’s “independent control steering technology” — which could appear as early as next year in Infiniti G-series models — takes the concept to its logical extreme. It replaces the steering column with software and motors to create a fully electric system. Beyond providing a better driving experience, Nissan sees the technology improving safety by allowing the car to take evasive action if, say, a pedestrian steps in front of you.

From there, it’s not hard to imagine the technology being instrumental in developing truly autonomous vehicles.

The system is fairly straightforward. When the driver turns the wheel, several computer modules (some of them are redundant to ensure safety) control electric motors that actuate the steering rack far faster than a traditional mechanical system. Before you start squawking about an electrical failure, Nissan says the steering wheel is connected to the rack through an emergency clutch, allowing the driver to retain control if something goes kablooey.

Many automakers have switched to electrically assisted steering and fly-by-wire’d for braking and acceleration to improve fuel economy. Electric steering, for example, doesn’t require an engine-driven pump. Nissan, however, says it’s tech is focused on helping the driver.

Steer-by-wire tech and a camera mounted ahead of the mirror scan the road ahead can enhance the driver experience. Road conditions and feedback can be analyzed on-the-fly, filtering unwanted “noise” often transmitted through a mechanical linkage from the wheels to the hands. Nissan claims the system also makes nearly instantaneous steering inputs. Want to feel the weight of the car shifting as you tackle a tight bend, but don’t want to feel that rut in the road during your morning commute? This new system has you covered on both fronts.

The camera also will watch for lane markings, stopped vehicles and other hazards. Wander out of your lane and your car will center itself. This is similar to other “lane keep assist” systems, but uses steering instead of the rear brakes to keep you in line. Extending that functionality, Nissan also claims the driver won’t need to apply corrective force to the wheel on banked corners, and the system will automatically adjust the attitude of the vehicle to account for lateral movement caused by crosswinds.

Nissan’s focus on driver involvement is only part of the puzzle, though. In addition to demonstrating the new technology on a modified Infiniti G37S, the automaker also showed off the technology in its electric Nissan Leaf fitted with the new steering system and a brace of monitors and sensors. As the car encounters obstacles — another vehicle, a pedestrian — the car steers itself to safety and stops.

It’s yet another indication that the future of autonomous vehicles isn’t about creating an all-new vehicle, but combining existing technologies to develop a nearly crash-proof car. The driving benefits are nearly secondary.




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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
Take a Look Inside the First Steer-by-Wire Car



Steering wheels, watch your backs. This summer will see the world’s first production steer-by-wire
car—the steering wheel talks to a computer, and the computer talks to the wheels. Eventually the technology could free the automobile from its obligatory dashboard rack-and-column layout—you could put a pagoda on a chassis and drive it with a Nintendo controller if you wanted. On the Infiniti Q50, though, the steering column stays. Juuussst in case. Here’s a breakdown of the new system.

1// Steering
On other cars, polyurethane bushings in the steering system generally soak up joggles and bumps in the road. Now those are gone—sensors in the suspension and software combine to help the steering wheel simulate a sense of the road.

2// Adaptability
Software also means tunable steering—you can go from catamaran-smooth to formula-car-responsive. Plus, the computer can adapt to changing conditions: It will take less effort to turn the wheel at low speed, allowing you to conquer skinny parking spaces.

3// Guidance
Cameras draw the computer a picture of the lane. If you drift, the system gently realigns you—it’ll feel like a weak magnet is keeping you stuck to the centerline. (Non-steer-by-wire cars can use the braking system to straighten you out, but that’s jarring.)

4// Fail-Safes
There are three electronic control units. Normally the system holds open a clutch to disengage the mechanical connection. If all three units fail, the clutch engages and the car reverts to old-fashioned mechanical steering. Coward.
 

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I had a luddite rant written about all this new tech and the way it could work together to make sure drivers never even have to look up. I saw it all in this light:

You get on the highway, set distance cruise to whomever suits you, then let the car maintain distance. You let it maintain the lane. So it's keeping your speed constant, keeping you aligned with your lane by steering for you, and if you want to depart from that lane, warning you when other drivers are in your blind spots. If you have distance control cruise set, if the guy in front brake checks you, you will stop with him and maintain distance, even if he comes to a complete stop.

It's basically a car driving itself, because it's doing everything you would normally do: sensing the environment around you and reacting to it within parameters.

As much as I like driving, I'll admit, on the cross-country drives I take to visit relatives (1200 miles round trip), I wouldn't mind letting the car do all the work and just get me there safely. With GPS nav and realtime updates it could take other routes around construction zones that I never see. Other cars could be doing the same, working as a big hive mind to redistribute traffic to alternate routes to keep any one of them from bottlenecking.

If it can just dodge the 400 pieces of big rig tires that are scattered liberally along my route, and potholes, and roadkill, I will trust it with my life.
 

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Technology at its finest and Infiniti and Nissan will be one of the first to have it. Luckily you can adjust the feedback and so on. I was afraid of the steering feel to be boring and soft but looking at another thread that was created earlier there will be adjustments from soft to hard.
 

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2// Adaptability
Software also means tunable steering—you can go from catamaran-smooth to formula-car-responsive. Plus, the computer can adapt to changing conditions: It will take less effort to turn the wheel at low speed, allowing you to conquer skinny parking spaces.
this is good but hopefuly it doesn't feel like the audi system that will tighten and be soft at certain conditions which really annoyed the heck out of me on my friends Audi RS4.
 

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Q50 Steered by Wire

Driven like a Jet the Infiniti Q50 will benefit from drive-by-wire technology, allowing the driver to choose how the wheel feels in their mittens.

Adjustable from the touch screen controls, the Q50’s direct adaptive steering is smooth and easy for maneuvering, firm and nimble when you want to be aggressive. Steering weight and response are both completely customizable and storable.

Not to worry Infiniti hasn’t left you out to dry in the event of a failure; the Q50 is backed up with traditional mechanical linkage as well.

 

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Seriously?
 

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Not really news but thanks for posting!

It will be interesting to see how they program the feedback for the system. That's the real trick. I'm guessing sensors will have to monitor road conditions and then fake them back to the driver to make it 'feel' like they are getting actual road feedback.

Sounds like BMW hasn't figured that one out yet. Let's hope the folks at Infiniti got it right. My money's on them doing it!
 
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I still don't know enough about the system to try to figure out how it would fail if parts started rusting off. But all the extra electronics does worry me if you plan to own 10+ years.
exactly, warranty and all i plan to OWN this car and im not particularity fond of the heightened maintenance/part costs. This was the reason I got out of german cars in the first place, might have to put my faith back in Amerika
 

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there's so much to break, many gizmos and sensors to corrode underneath, this car has potential to be a nightmare in northern markets..
Any modern car (For example, the CTS as you posted) is going to have a wicked abundance of sensors and technology, all of which could be impacted by environmental condition.

Not sure why you seem to be fishing here. :rolleyes:
 

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i'm not certain but I have a feeling Infiniti might have thought of some of these things and will have gaskets, covers and locations that are meant to maximize the life of those sensors.

Of course, something could not go as planned and that's what recalls and warranty are for :)
 

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Additional thought about the steering:

A few years ago, when I got a loaner while my car was being serviced, I immediately felt the difference between the steering in the loaner and my car. When I asked them about it, they said that since my car was AWD, the steering would be "heavier." I wonder if that will still be true in the Q50. I know that you can now adjust it, but with the same setting, will the AWD have more heft to it? Time will tell.
 

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Additional thought about the steering:

A few years ago, when I got a loaner while my car was being serviced, I immediately felt the difference between the steering in the loaner and my car. When I asked them about it, they said that since my car was AWD, the steering would be "heavier." I wonder if that will still be true in the Q50. I know that you can now adjust it, but with the same setting, will the AWD have more heft to it? Time will tell.
AWD have heavy steering? hmm.. could be because the front wheels are heavier because of the drivetrain to the front?
 
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