Nissan Motor Co. is planning to install the purported "steer-by-wire" technology on some of its luxury cars. This will allow the vehicles’ steering to be controlled by an electronic system, rather than by a mechanical one. Nissan disclosed in a briefing that it will be fitting the new technology in some models of the Infiniti brand within a year, setting the foundation for future automatic steering systems that could avoid crashes automatically. Conventionally, the steering wheel and the tires are connected mechanically, providing the driver with direct steering feedback from the tires on the road. However, in the "steer-by-wire" technology, the inputs made by the driver on the steering wheel will be transmitted to computerized engine control unit, which then give instructions to an actuator on how to move the tires.
But as a backup when problems arise, Nissan will also be installing a clutch that will connect the steering wheel and tires mechanically. The Japanese carmaker, however, hopes that backup clutch won’t always be needed. Nissan engineer Masaharu Satou remarked that in the future, the steering wheel could be placed in anywhere in the vehicle, even in the back seat, adding that it might be possible to steer the car with a joystick.
While several carmakers have already installed the "steer-by-wire" technology in concept, just like Audi did with its A2 model in 2011, Nissan is the first auto company to apply it for mass-produced cars, according to Nissan engineer Toshiharu Asai. He said that under the new system, the driver's intentions are transmitted faster to the wheels because of the quicker speed of electronic signals. Asai added that the system also allows drivers to maneuver their vehicles more easily since it strikes out uncalled feedback from the tires to the driver.