17 Jul 2013

Infiniti Q50 will get steer by wire

The Infiniti Q50 will be launched later in 2013 and it will feature steer by wire technology.
Infiniti Q50 with steer by wire technology
Back in October 2012, when Nissan first mentioned that steer by wire would be introduced on one of their road vehicles within a year, I asked if it was a dangerous technology, and surmised that it would.

Now we know that the technology will be on cars running around on our roads by the end of the year - so watch out for Infinitis plunging headlong into other cars, barriers and hedges.  Well, OK that might be a bit extreme because the Q50 gets a mechanical back-up, but how long will it be until Nissan and other manufacturers reckon the back-up isn't needed?

Infiniti say the system provides for better response and feedback by taking the mechanical 'losses' out of the equation.  That may be true compared to other Infinitis but have they driven a modern Jaguar, which has the most sublime oily-smooth steering?

For a scary read of what happens when electronically controlled systems fail read this.  It's by an ex-Tesla test driver.  A Tesla is essentially a giant computer with few mechanical systems.  When the prototype's computer crashed the car was uncontrollable - even at speed.  And it happened on several occasions.

My fear is that we will let the engineers have their fun and we'll be left to suffer the consequences of computer failure.  You might not buy a car with brake and steer by wire but the driver of the car behind you on the motorway may do - and when his computer crashes, which they all do at some point, his car won't stop until it hits something.

Steer-by-wire will no doubt become commonplace.  I'd like to see legislation introduced that forces manufacturers to retain a mechanical safety net.