Nissan Motor Co., Ltd. has unveiled the world’s first steering technology that allows independent control of a vehicle’s tire angle and steering inputs. The new system could have significant weight, performance and fuel economy advantages as heavy components found within the steering column are no longer required.
A conventional steering system directs tire movements by transmitting steering inputs to the tires via a mechanical link. Nissan’s next-generation steering technology reads the driver’s intentions from steering inputs and controls the vehicle’s tire movements via electronic signals. This transmits the driver’s intentions to the wheels even faster than a mechanical system and increases the direct driving performance feel by quickly and intelligently communicating road surface feedback to the driver.
The system controls and insulates the vehicle from unnecessary road-generated disturbances to deliver only the necessary performance feel to the driver. For example, even on a road surface with minor ridges or furrows, the driver no longer has to grip the steering wheel tightly and make detailed adjustments, so travelling on the intended path becomes easier.
Steer-by-wire is already well established in the aerospace market but could have significant advantages for automakers and drivers alike. Typically, a vehicle’s steering column is one of the heaviest components of in a car and removing it could significantly decreases the weight of the vehicle and thus reduces fuel consumption and produces less CO2 emissions.
This next-generation steering technology’s high reliability is achieved by multiple ECUs. In the event a single ECU malfunctions, another ECU will instantly take control, and in extreme circumstances such as the power supply being disrupted, the backup clutch will act to connect the steering wheel and wheels mechanically, ensuring continued safe travel.
This technology will be equipped on select Infiniti models on sale within one year to provide “Driving as Intended” and “Driving with Peace of Mind”. Will drivers accept this new innovation? Only time will tell.