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Nissan unveils world-first ‘steer-by-wire’
Nissan has unveiled what it claims to be the world’s first digitally-controlled ‘drive-by-wire’ steering system. Traditionalists and luddites, look away now.
Instead of an old-fashioned mechanical connection between steering wheel and front wheels, such as that found in a traditional hydraulically-actuated rack and pinion system, Nissan reckons electronics can do a better job.
Its ‘next-generation’ steering technology ditches the mechanical connection. Instead, it reads the drivers intentions from steering inputs and then transmits these signals to multiple electronic control units, which control the vehicle’s tyre movements.
But why bother – do we really need more computers in our cars?
Well, Nissan says its system transmits the driver’s intentions to the wheels much faster, theoretically improving steering response, “and increasing the direct driving performance feel by quickly and intelligently communicating road surface feedback to the driver”.
Each wheel is also turned independently, enabling the system to improve stability by making small steering angle adjustments in the event the vehicle changes direction due to surface imperfections, crosswinds or other unintended influences – thus improving safety, says Nissan.
A rear-view mirror mounted camera also watches the road ahead, analysing lane direction and the car’s position to detect discrepancies and alter the car’s course if necessary.
In the name of progress, the rise of the computer is all well and good but what if it catches a cold? In the event that one steering brain malfunctions, another takes over instantly, Nissan says. And if the backup fails, a clutch will act to connect the steering wheel and wheels mechanically. Phew.
The system will make an appearance on some Infiniti models (we’re not sure which) within a year, according to the news release. So if you don’t fancy a computer interfering with your steering, you know which brand to avoid…
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