Print 37 comment(s) - last by freedom4556.. on Oct 18 at 12:35 PM

Paving the way for autonomous future?

Nissan Motor Co. has announced plans to equip some of its high-end Infiniti brand luxury vehicles with new steer-by-wire technology. This new technology would replace the mechanical systems that link the steering wheel to the front wheels of the vehicle allowing the driver control over the car.

Nissan expects to introduce the technology within the next year year. Nissan notes that the steering wheel of the car and the tires are traditionally linked by mechanical means to give the driver direct feedback from the wheels on the road. Most automotive steering systems today are assisted by either electronic or hydraulic means.

Infiniti Emerg-E Concept

Ford for instance, uses electronic power steering on a number of its vehicles, including its popular Mustang. And a number of vehicles cruising the streets today already use throttle- by-wire. Nissan says that adding steer by wire technology would pave the way for future vehicles to be controlled by a joystick and to create vehicles that are able to automatically avoid accidents.

This technology could be a step on Nissan's path to autonomous vehicles that don't need a driver to operate. Nissan does say that the system would have a failsafe in the event of an electrical system failure. The wheels and the steering wheel can be mechanically linked to each other using an emergency clutch.

"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," said Masaharu Satou, a Nissan engineer.

Source: Reuters

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By FITCamaro on 10/17/2012 9:39:44 AM , Rating: 1
This is a good way to insure I'd never own an Infiniti. Anyone who enjoys driving wants feedback from the road through the suspension, tires, and steering.

RE: No
By jjlj on 10/17/12, Rating: 0
RE: No
By maevinj on 10/17/2012 10:02:32 AM , Rating: 4
Nissan does say that the system would have a failsafe in the event of an electrical system failure. The wheels and the steering wheel can be mechanically linked to each other using an emergency clutch.

RE: No
By Nutzo on 10/17/2012 1:29:42 PM , Rating: 2
And when the "clutch" fails to engage because the car is 10 years old and it's stuck due to corrosion?

Just like the "floor mat" problem on some Toyota/Lexas/other cars causing the gas to stick, and people not knowing how to shut down a car that doesn't use a key.

Think I'll pass.

FYI: On most cars without a key, you can forcably shut down the car by pressing and holding down the start button for more than 4 seconds just like a computer. Good to know as it might save your life some day :)

RE: No
By JKflipflop98 on 10/18/2012 1:39:22 AM , Rating: 1
Herp derp moving forwards is bad because I'm scared of things that confuse me.

RE: No
By MGSsancho on 10/18/2012 2:28:38 AM , Rating: 2
You have to be inside the car for that to happen. if you can reach the start button how is that different from yanking/breaking the keys off?

The clutch can have a solenoid that disengages the clutch when ever the power is off. This way when the battery dies or the car is turned off the clutch is engaged allowing you to still force the wheel over to push a car off the road. Let engineers worry about technical problems.

RE: No
By KentState on 10/17/2012 2:12:59 PM , Rating: 3
This solution doesn't make sense. Why replace a simple linkage with a complex system that will still require room for a steering column shaft?

RE: No
By drycrust3 on 10/17/2012 4:43:31 PM , Rating: 2
Nissan does say that the system would have a failsafe in the event of an electrical system failure.

I was driving a bus one day and the vehicle had a total electrical power failure. Right out of the blue the alarms started going, and I was looking for warning lights to try and make a diagnosis when the whole bus died. Fortunately I was on a suburban street and not a railway crossing. The point being that total electrical failures can, although rare, and do happen.

I'm not 100% sure, but I suspect most of the buses in our bus fleet have hydraulic linkages between the steering wheel and the front wheels rather than pure mechanical (as in "hardened steel") linkages, so, if that is true (I will ask the mechanics today), then one needs to keep this in context because it is arguable that this Holy Grail of automotive technology (i.e. "must have mechanical linkage to the steering") has been discarded long ago in an application where reliability is more important than in a private motor car.
I think a more important issue is the use, or rather the avoid the use of aluminium alloys in the steering system. I once had a vehicle with an aluminium alloy component in the steering, and one day I noticed it part of the mounting that had been fractured for a long time, so it had just three bolts holding it on instead of 4. If the component was made of steel then maybe it would have been slightly bent (and thus, out of spec), but it wouldn't have cracked.
Have any of us checked our cars for aluminium components in the steering when we bought it? Nope! What do we check? Engine, radio, rpm gauge, odometer, and acceleration!
So, if I had a choice, would I drive a bus with an electrical steering system? Assuming it "ticks all the boxes", such as it passes the New Zealand Government certifications, there was no perceptible difference in the steering, etc, then yes, I would.
We had one of those police programs about car crashes here in New Zealand, and one episode was about a man that was killed in what sounded suspiciously like there was a defect in the power assisted steering system that intermittently lurched the vehicle towards the centre of the road. I think a defect in an electrical system could arguably be easier and cheaper to find and fix than in a power assisted steering system.
The two questions that one needs to ask are how "straight" can one drive, and what happens in "shock" situations, such as when one hits something solid, such as the "lip" on gets when a road is being resurfaced, or a pot hole in the road.

RE: No
By drycrust3 on 10/17/2012 9:37:33 PM , Rating: 2
I've just spoken to one of the mechanics, and he says that our buses have a total mechanical linkage between the steering wheel and the front wheels.
That said, I still think that as long as it "ticks all the boxes" I would drive it.

RE: No
By zlandar on 10/17/2012 10:04:39 AM , Rating: 2
The F-16 uses a fly-by-wire system and has been in service since the 80's. I don't see planes falling out of the sky from "electrical failure".

I doubt Nissan or any other major car maker is going to risk throwing out a half-baked steering system that exposes them to significant litigation.

RE: No
By Dr of crap on 10/17/2012 10:16:29 AM , Rating: 2
True, but these multimillion dollar planes are checked out by mechanics that know what they are doing and most likely are checked over very thoughly before EACH flight.

MOST cars don't even have their hood opened by the owner. Why do you think we NEEDED a law passed to get a tire pressure sensor system in place. So a "failure" is always possible from those to stupid to own a car or have kids!

So I COULD see a car loosing power and then the driver loosing control of the car.

RE: No
By zlandar on 10/17/2012 10:55:19 AM , Rating: 1
Answer this riddle: how stupid would a car company be if it released a new steering system it was not ABSOLUTELY confident was safe and not expose them to getting their ass sued off?

RE: No
By ascian5 on 10/17/2012 11:31:29 AM , Rating: 5
I love what you do for me... Toyota!

RE: No
By Dr of crap on 10/17/2012 12:47:34 PM , Rating: 1
Remember the Pinto and it's exploding gas tanks?

That's how!

It was deemed OK to relase the car knowing the problem. Investigate it!

Thta's HOW stupid!

RE: No
By Misty Dingos on 10/17/2012 10:55:52 AM , Rating: 3
The F-16 uses a quadruple back up system for it's Fly-By-Wire system. In the event there is a power outage they have an emergency generator on board that uses hydrazine to generate power for the hydraulics. Yet with all this going for it, its nick name in the AF is the Lawn Dart. Why is that you say? Well that is because they fall out of the sky with amazing regularity.

Spouses of pilots killed in them have successfully sued the manufacturer for damages because of wire chaffing issues.

So yes they do fall out of the sky for electrical failure, in fact when it isn't pilot error most of the time it is electrical failure probably followed by engine failure.

RE: No
By tayb on 10/17/2012 10:41:15 AM , Rating: 2
You'll likely still get feedback but it won't be natural feedback. Brake by wire systems have been out for a long time, the brake feedback is artificial.

RE: No
By Iaiken on 10/17/2012 7:15:02 PM , Rating: 2
Brake by wire systems have been out for a long time, the brake feedback is artificial.

Not to mention digital throttle control being virtually ubiquitous now.

The question I have for Renault-Nissan is how reliable this emergency clutch is and how hard it will be to control the vehicle once the linkage is connected to the steering wheel. I have to say trying to steer a new Fords when their electronics are off is like trying to wrestle a bear.

RE: No
By Calin on 10/18/2012 8:53:20 AM , Rating: 2
I tried to steer a 1992 VW Passat (hydraulic assisted steering) at enough speed, and it was very very difficult to steer outside of some 20-degrees one side and the other of the "forward" position of the steering wheel. Inside that range, steering was about as easy as usual, but outside that it was pretty much impossible. Steering a car without power assisted steering while stopped seemed so much easier..

RE: No
By Ammohunt on 10/17/2012 10:49:07 AM , Rating: 2
Same here i prefer vehicles with clutches and no traction control or anti-lock brake nonsense.

RE: No
By vectorm12 on 10/17/2012 11:12:41 AM , Rating: 3
As do I but people have proven time after time that most of them shouldn't even be allowed behind the wheel of anything more potent than a bicycle. Just last week I had some 30ish woman in a mint Volvo 242 go over a roundabout and onto a lawn.

As much as I hate to admit it ABS, TCS and other safety systems do save lives, including the lives of the ones who do know how to handle a car.

I'd love to live in a world where driving a car ment mandatory trackdays and other training which any driver needs to be able to handle a critical event in traffic. Sadly that's just not the world we live in.

RE: No
By SeeManRun on 10/17/2012 11:37:40 AM , Rating: 2
Why do you hate to admit it? It seems like pretty common sense. The manufactures are not putting these systems in place to make driving more fun, but more safe. Backup cameras make backing up dead simple and kind of boring. Nothing beats the excitement of backing over bicycles or children to get your heart racing.

RE: No
By vectorm12 on 10/17/2012 1:54:08 PM , Rating: 2
Because in the end all they do is allow people to be morons behind the wheel. Building confidence in abilities that are artificial.

ABS, TCS and most other systems of this sort make it easier for people to drive recklessly. TSC allows people to crosslanes at high speeds and ABS allows them to shorten the breaking-distance during hard braking and/or turning. That is until they can't cope with whatever idiotic move someone decides to make behind the wheel. That's when the real accidents happen.

To be honest I'm starting to doubt my own words as these systems may not be saving lives but rather reduce the amount of accidents but also make accidents more serious.

RE: No
By Dr of crap on 10/17/2012 12:51:07 PM , Rating: 2
No AbS - then you DO NOT drive in snow!
ABS makes that SOOOOO much better!

I make it a point to only look at cars with ABS when I need a different one.

RE: No
By guffwd13 on 10/17/2012 3:50:02 PM , Rating: 2
No AbS - then you DO NOT drive in snow!
ABS makes that SOOOOO much better!

Woah woah woah there!!!! Slippery snow, freezing rain, and ice is exactly the situation where ABS has almost no function whatsoever. The whole point of ABS is to allow the wheels to continue to turn while braking so that you can continue to steer the car and avoid a hazard. This whole technology presupposes that the wheels actually have grip to begin with. No grip = your car will continue to move in the same vector direction - ABS or not. Also as a function of momentum, the heavier your car, the less ABS could potentially help in that situation. In some situations it'll increase your stopping distance and put your straight in the path of travel of another vehicle.

On the other hand, in thick snow ABS could help because you'll still have some grip. But for anyone that lives in a city where the streets get plowed just often enough to allow some accumulation or for everything to freeaze, ABS ain't gonna help much.

RE: No
By Dr of crap on 10/18/2012 8:25:53 AM , Rating: 2
Do you drive in snow in the winter months?

Because if you did you'd understand HOW ABS Helps you to control your car as you -
1- try and stop on ice and snow - not completely covered streets, but patches
2 - you try to turn the corner - yep ABS will allow you to make the corner rather then HIT the snow bank or curb
3 - MAYBE keep you from rear ending the moroon that decided to slam on the brakes for no reason

Your responses tell me you either do not drive in REAL winter conditions, or don't know the control that you get from having ABS available in winter driving. I've driven with rear wheel drive, front wheel drive, and front wheel drive with ABS, and BEST vehicle to have in snow and ice conditions in REAL winter driving is ABS.

Say what you want. I know what I have experienced and it's ABS only for me. Now if I lived where I didn't drive in snow, I wouldn't need ABS. It's that simple!

RE: No
By Calin on 10/18/2012 9:08:50 AM , Rating: 2
ABS helps when you try to emergency stop with two wheels on the road and two wheels on the dirt beside. Not a common occurence (much less common than winter driving), but useful nonetheless

RE: No
By Ammohunt on 10/17/2012 4:26:49 PM , Rating: 2
I live in Colorado... fact is if you rely on ABS in snow you are going to have a hard time keeping it on the road and chances are you are going way to fast. You will never learn how to control a car that is in a slide with ABS breaks. For me its about total control of the vehicle i want to reduce as many varibles between me and road i drive the car not the other way around.

RE: No
By Bull Dog on 10/18/2012 3:06:14 AM , Rating: 2
Yea, if you are driving too fast for the conditions ABS and any other traction control system isn't going to change the raw physics.

I like ABS brakes.

About a year ago, I almost T-boned another vehicle. While it wouldn't have been my fault, see below, I still would have sucked.

I was driving north at roughly 25 MPH. The east-west lanes have stop signs. To north-south lanes do not. The east-west side street receive a fair bit of traffic and there is almost always someone at one or both of the stop signs. It was nighttime, my lights were on, and the roads were dry.

As I approached the intersection, an eastbound vehicle pulled out and scooted across with probably 3-5 seconds to spare. Very shortly after that, another car, this time on the East side going West, started pulling out into the intersection.

As soon as I saw his vehicle start to move forward I was on the brakes as hard and fast as I could. I didn't have time to think about feathering the breaks to the traction point for best stopping power. It was just @#$%! You have got to be kidding me, BRAKE! I came within inches of planting the nose of my car into the offending vehicle's driver door.

It's hard to say for sure if ABS helped at all, but for me they provide a small piece of mind . The key point again though is that I do not rely on the fact that my car has ABS to get me to a stop. In point of fact if I'm driving on snow and ice and I feel the ABS kick in that tells me that I'm braking too hard. If I need to brake that hard to reduce my speed then was going too fast to begin with and need to drive slower. This is vastly preferable to locking up the wheels and entering into slide even if only for a second.

RE: No
By Calin on 10/18/2012 9:12:18 AM , Rating: 2
In those conditions, I think ABS actually increased the braking distance (if a bit). On the other hand, if you'd have tried to avoid an accident by maneuvering the car (either to the left, or especially to the right on the shoulder, ABS would allow you to brake better than non-assisted while also manouevering).

RE: No
By Calin on 10/18/2012 9:05:42 AM , Rating: 2
There are at least a couple of reasons for the anti-lock brakes:
- keep the car driving forward when you're braking hard with two wheels on the road and two wheels on the dirt
- allow (at least some measure of) directionability if the driver is in "white knuckle, I'm gonna crash" position on the brake (I avoided such an accident on a downhill with ice, at less than 10 miles per hour - with the wheels locked, the car was sliding downhill, not accelerating but not slowing down). I turned the wheel, but a sliding car (all wheels blocked) has no control over its direction. After a bit of "Oh my God I'm gonna crash" I remembered to pump the brakes a bit, and lo and behold! - as soon as the wheels unlocked, I've had decent direction control and I easily avoided the truck in front of me.

Not to mention, the ABS system is "pumping the brakes" much more efficient than any human pilot could do (and the next step, differential braking when turning, is easy to add to the ABS, but not even rally drivers can do that - left to right, they do it front-to-rear).

As for traction control... never had a car that would have a use for it - but I've seen a semi pulling a trailer on frozen snow (or maybe ice) using its traction control (locking and unlocking the rear wheels maybe a couple of times a second) - and while it was very slow, it was definitely working in conditions difficult even for a passenger car with winter tires. So, I'd say traction control would definitely be a good thing for a lot of drivers out there, if only for winter conditions

RE: No
By DukeN on 10/17/2012 11:40:29 AM , Rating: 4
Who needs Englash wen u can have a madd car, yo? Insured and everythang

This is a good way to insure I'd never own an Infiniti. Anyone who enjoys driving wants feedback from the road through the suspension, tires, and steering.

RE: No
By Reclaimer77 on 10/17/2012 1:33:51 PM , Rating: 1
-1? Very harsh. I think Fit brings up a fair point, how does this system provide similar driving "feel" to what we have now?

Also what are the advantages to this system over standard steering setups. I would say weight savings possibly, however with the addition of backup emergency clutches and what not, that might not be the case.

But a -1 for bringing up a good point?

RE: No
By nedsand on 10/17/2012 1:46:42 PM , Rating: 2
See the link I posted above. Some benefits are: keeping the wheels straight over rough terrain, slanted roads and wind gusts. I'm not sure I like the camera that helps keep the car centered in the lane. I think it will cause people to pay less attention to the road.

Long overdue, but wrong approach
By inperfectdarkness on 10/18/2012 6:22:57 AM , Rating: 2
Steer by wire is fine. There's a couple thoughts on my mind:

1. Emergency lock-up clutch for the steering rack effectively means that you have to keep all of the standard steering components in the you've effectively saved no space or weight.

2. Giving the steer-by-wire system a separate, internal battery (possibly driven off the alternator as well). This would mean that the steering system could still function independently after a complete power failure in the drivetrain--which would eliminate potential risk. If the alternator/electrical system goes dead, the steering system still has power to maneuver the wheels.

3. Engine bays have always been constrained by the steering mechanisms. Eliminating the clunky mechanical pieces allows for greater flexibility in layout--which potentially offers better weight distribution.

4. Reliability would greatly increase, as solid-state electronics almost always improve reliability over purely mechanical systems with a larger number of moving parts.

5. This system needs to remain closed and hard-wired. It is entirely too dangerous to rely upon any form of wireless communication for something of this type. Same is true of throttle by wire.

6. Road feedback and driver-connectedness can be easily mimiced by a state-of-the-art system. Sensors within the driving assembly can be programmed to detect and relay road-feedback to the steering assembly. These inputs can be determined by measurements such as how much or little force is needed to physically turn the wheels from side to side or any "pushback" the wheels are feeding the turning mechanism (as you would experience if you tried to maneuver out of some tire ruts). This type of "Force Feedback" could potentially be fine-tuned to such a degree that it actually presents the driver with a better connection to the road--since any mechanical system will somewhat attenuate the signal between input and driver.

By freedom4556 on 10/18/2012 12:35:38 PM , Rating: 2
3. Engine bays have always been constrained by the steering mechanisms. Eliminating the clunky mechanical pieces allows for greater flexibility in layout--which potentially offers better weight distribution.

I disagree with this statement. While this may be true for some front-wheel drive cars, there still has to be a rack or box that your turning with steer-by-wire, you're simply doing it electrically. I fail to see what removing the steering column will do to revolutionize weight savings or engine layout.

Steer-by-wire / automotive
By NovoRei on 10/17/2012 11:42:17 AM , Rating: 2
It´s a technology used in harvesters, fork-lifters and yachts. There are two classes.

1) Semi-active is based on magneto-rheological fluids. It just resists handwheel rotation giving a partial feel of control. (interesting technology BTW).

2) Active. Usually hydraulic based. Can give full response at increased cost and complexity.

They have not been implemented in cars yet because there are requirements for hard links. Safety concerns in cases of loss of power or fluid. That´s why Nissan must use an emergency clutch.

Did some Googling
By nedsand on 10/17/2012 11:58:40 AM , Rating: 2
I couldn't find how the safety clutch engages in an emergency situation. Anybody know? Is it automatic or manual.
There is a lot more info on this technology here. I'm not going to be a fist adopter but when this technology gets all the bugs worked out and goes mainstream I can see it making a huge difference in how we drive. Or at least the experience of driving. Cool technology and a neat look into the future.

"If you look at the last five years, if you look at what major innovations have occurred in computing technology, every single one of them came from AMD. Not a single innovation came from Intel." -- AMD CEO Hector Ruiz in 2007

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