Nissan Motor Co has revealed that its mass-produced cars will now be equipped with “steer-by-wire” technology for the first time. The technology will allow users of Nissan’s luxury cars with a steering system guided electronically, instead of the conventional mechanical system.
Some models of the company’s Infiniti series will receive the new technology within a year. This will pave the way for futuristic cars that could be one day steered through joysticks just like in today’s video games. Such cars may also be programmed to avoid crashes automatically.
Conventional steering mechanism connects the steering wheel of the car and the tires mechanically, providing direct feedback to the driver from the tires on the road.
In contrast, “steer-by-wire” technology lets a driver input some data, which in turn, are forwarded to a computer-driven engine control unit that tells an actuator how the tires are moved.
These new upgraded cars will also feature a fail-safe clutch linked to from the steering wheel to the tires mechanically in case of emergency. The Japanese auto company hopes the backup clutch will not be used often.
Nissan engineer Masaharu Satou said: “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.”
Last Friday, the company gives a demonstration to reporters revealing the new system ahead of its planned official announcement this Tuesday.
“Steer-by-wire” technology is not an original Nissan concept. Audi’s A2 introduced it in 2011. Other automakers have followed suit, but Nissan is the first to apply the technology to mass-produced cars, according to Nissan engineer Toshiharu Asai.
This new system transmits driver intentions to the wheels more quickly as electronic signals travels faster. Oeuvre cars can also be manned more easily because the new technology as it cuts out what it believes as unnecessary feedback to the driver.
Friday’s demonstration also showed a system that immediately tells a car to avoid a possible crash scenario if it detects a potential obstacle in the way. Nissan hopes to incorporate this technology to its fleet in the coming three to five years.
Using a combination of laser scanners, a camera, and radars, the new guidance system will automatically apply necessary brakes if it detects a person, car, or object ahead. It will also steer the car to a safe zone if there’s one available, Nissan engineers said.
Another Nissan engineer, Tetsuya Iijima, said: “We are thinking about the essentials — what kind of a tool should cars be for humans? By controlling its hands and feet, as well as the eyes and the brain, cars are on its way to becoming an extension of robots.”