Nissan’s Steer-By-Wire

Posted by Stephen On Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012

Nissan has announced their plans to introduce a new electronic steering control system – steer-by-wire. This will replace the mechanical steering linkage systems of today, just as fly-by-wire has replaced mechanical systems in aircraft. This system could be introduced on Infiniti models within a year, although the company did not say how much extra money something like this will add to the price.

Steer-by-wire benefits

To a purist who enjoys driving for the experience of driving, something like this just does not seem to sit right. Even if it were effective, how would the handling and control of the car feel? After all, the feel of the driving experience is every bit as important as how it actually works. You just need to read reviews of the latest iteration of Porsche’s iconic 911 to realize just how difficult it is to give the driver the sensations that make driving fun.

Nissan does appear to be trying to address that issue. According to their report, it has said that the feedback will be both more direct and also adjustable. In the same way that drivers car choose between different transmission and suspension settings on some cars now, so he will be able to choose between at least two different modes, Sport and Standard for steering response also.

Steer-by-wire – more than just electric power steering

Not only will there be electric assistance, but there will also be a camera that will help keep the car automatically hold a straight line. This way, drivers will not need to make small corrections and adjustments, since the car will do that for them! The system itself will also be able to auto-correct in the event of crosswinds. Even auto purists will find little to grumble about a feature that is basically going to make long-distance driving less taxing.

There will be three redundant engine controllers that will prevent any loss of steering. And in an extreme situation, if the engine were to lose power completely there is a clutch that engages a backup mechanical link, allowing the driver to actually drive the car and control the front wheels.

I am still skeptical. Even with Nissan saying that the steering wheel will be completely isolated and independent from the rest of the system in an effort to reduce the amount of road vibrations felt by the driver. I am not sure I want to reduce the amount of feel to that extent.

It seems that the whole idea of this is to make driving more automatic and more technically easy. The driver does not need to do anything anymore but simply show up and turn they key. Maybe things are getting to the point where there is just too much advanced technology in our cars? Maybe we need to really step up and say, “No thanks, I prefer to actually drive once in a while!”

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