2014 Infiniti models will get steer-by-wire system

Nissan/Infiniti steer-by-wire system diagramYou’ve heard of fly-by-wire, now get ready for steer-by-wire. Soon, some cars will have no physical connection between their steering wheels and the road, thanks to a system Nissan has developed for its Infiniti luxury division.

Nissan did away with the traditional steering rack; its new system controls the direction of the front wheels through electronic signals only. It’s all about efficiency: electronics can react much faster than mechanical linkages, or the flesh bag in the driver’s seat.

Steer-by-wire can also be more precise than a mechanical system. The fly-by-wire system in a B-2 Spirit stealth bomber makes hundreds of minute corrections every second to keep it in the air; Nissan’s system does the same to keep a car tracking straight, which apparently requires the same level of technology as flying an inherently unstable triangular warplane.

Performance enthusiasts, who are still mourning the loss of hydraulic-assisted power steering, might become suicidal when they hear that their beloved steering racks have been eliminated all together. One of the most important (and enjoyable) parts of driving is feeling the road through the steering wheel, and steer-by-wire will cut that connection.

However, Nissan says its new system could actually make cars handle better. Since steer-by-wire eliminates the need for mechanical linkages, each wheel can be steered independently. This could make cars handle with more precision.

There are also reliability concerns. Electronics are not as durable as big pieces of metal, and no mechanic outside an Infiniti dealer is going to know how to fix these bits. Nissan says that, to ensure reliability, its steer-by-wire is controlled by two ECUs (electronic control units, similar to the ones that run the engine), so that one computer can serve as a backup if the primary unit fails.Infiniti LE front three-quarter

Nissan could also be accused of trying to fix something that isn’t broken. While hydraulic-assisted power steering has given way to electric-assist, the standard rack-and-pinion steering system hasn’t changed in decades. People haven’t really been clamoring for a radical change in the way they steer their vehicles, so will they notice the difference?

Steer-by-wire systems have been talked about for years, but usually as part of a radical change in car design. General Motors included steer-by-wire on its AUTOnomy and Hy-Wire fuel cell concepts. They integrated all of their mechanical systems in “skateboard” chassis. Since the cars were unencumbered by the need for steering racks or engines, the bodies could take on any shape designers wanted.

The new Infinitis will have decidedly traditional packaging, so the feel of their steering will be its main selling point. We’ll have to drive a steer-by-wire-equipped Infiniti to see if the benefits of this new technology outweigh the increased complexity and loss of soul.

Fuel cells and skateboard cars might be a long way off, but steer-by-wire will arrive in showrooms within one year, according to Nissan. The 2014 Infiniti G luxury sedan and LE electric car will probably get the new system first.

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Grow veggies indoors and shower more efficiently

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Product Review

Mercedes-Benz updates the timeless G-wagen for the modern world

For decades, the G-Class has been an outlier in the Mercedes-Benz portfolio, a body-on-frame brute with the soul – and driving manners – of an off-road pickup. With the all-new G550, Mercedes seeks to smooth out some of the rough edges.
Emerging Tech

Descending at an angle could be key to landing heavier craft on Mars

Landing on Mars is a challenge: The heavier the craft, the more difficult a safe landing becomes. Scientists propose using retropropulsion engines and angling the craft to create a pressure differential to land heavier crafts in the future.
Product Review

The 2020 Volvo V60 Cross Country is a do-it-all Swedish army knife

Volvo laced up its smallest station wagon in hiking clothes to create the V60 Cross Country. It's a lifted, all-wheel drive wagon that laughs at icy roads while coddling its occupants. We travel to Sweden to try it out.

Alfa Romeo’s latest Ferrari-powered F1 race car is ready to hit the track

Alfa Romeo is doubling down on Formula One racing after a decades-long hiatus. Now essentially a support team for Ferrari, its 2019 driver lineup includes a former world champion and a potential future star.

Researchers teach self-driving cars to predict pedestrians’ next moves

University of Michigan researchers are developing a system that teaches self-driving cars to predict pedestrian movement. Humans don't always act in their own best self-interest, so autonomous cars will need to practice protective driving.

Subaru’s latest VIZIV concept car is pumped full of adrenaline

The Subaru VIZIV Adrenaline is the seventh member of the Japanese automaker's family of VIZIV concept cars. It debuts at the 2019 Geneva Motor Show, but for now, all we're getting is a shadowy teaser image.

Audi is advancing the tech that teaches cars to talk to traffic lights

Audi is teaching its cars the language of traffic lights. The company developed technology that tells motorists what speed they should drive at in order to catch as many green lights as possible.

Waymo rules and Apple trails in California self-driving car benchmarks

California's DMV releases annual reports of self-driving car disengagements on public roads. In the most recent reports. Waymo had the best performance, GM Cruise came in second, and Apple's self-driving program was in last place.

Watch a modified Audi e-tron electric SUV drive straight up a ski slope

A modified Audi e-tron climbed up an 85-percent gradient on an Austrian ski slope in a tribute to a classic Audi commercial. The vehicle used for the stunt sported an extra electric motor and spiked tires.

Mamma mia! Alfa Romeo will unveil a new model at the Geneva Auto Show

Alfa Romeo told Digital Trends it will unveil a new model at the 2019 Geneva Auto Show. It stopped short of revealing what it has in store, but rumors claim it will be a crossover positioned below the Stelvio.

Citroën says you could drive its tiny Ami One electric car without a license

Citroën's Ami One concept car is an electric vehicle that's as cute as it is compact. The miniature motor only has a top speed of 28 mph, so the French automaker imagines it as a shareable runaround for short drives.

Arizona city slammed with $10M lawsuit over fatal Uber autonomous car accident

The family of Elaine Herzberg, the woman struck and killed by one of Uber's self-driving prototypes, has filed a $10 million lawsuit against the city of Tempe, Arizona. They claim Herzberg jaywalked because she was confused by a brick…

Mercedes lets the sun shine in one last time with SLC Final Edition convertible

The Mercedes-Benz SLC convertible sports car is going out of production. Launched in 1996 as the SLK, the model has been a fixture in the Mercedes-Benz lineup across three generations.