As part of a coordinated set of technology announcements on the 17th of October, Nissan announced a next-generation steering system and provided the first image and video of it. It will be on sale within quote “a year in an Infiniti”… which interestingly matches the likely delivery date of the next Infiniti G. Widely circulated spy pictures have shown a prototype G sedan of approximately the same size as the current G, although with an M-type front grill and rear tail lights (including a similar double hood over the instruments inside). A sport model has even been seen, wearing the same Akebono brakes as the current sport models. A coupe and performance models will follow after the initial introduction.
Setting aside the technology questions for a moment, could this announcement be a clue as to the upcoming new Infiniti G? And also to future users of the updated FM platform underneath the new G? Currently, the M, EX, FX, and Nissan Z share this same platform. If we assume that the next Z will again use the same platform, then this technology is also a possibility for it (although it may be too expensive for a Z). Any Z speculation is just that at this early point: a Z is likely 2 years away from the introduction of the G.
The image shows an aluminum front crossmember, aluminum L-shape lower control arm, and big sport brakes with fat tires. This would be consistent with a G. Our conclusion: the image shows the system in the new G. The video further supports that conclusion with Infiniti G-type wheels and current G steering wheel with Infiniti logo in a 4-door sedan outline.
Then there is the technology itself to consider… the implications for performance enthusiasts are fascinating. The potential here is for immediate (capital letters and exclamation point) steering response. The video also shows how compensation for road surface irregularities and side winds (and probably road crown) will be provided. “Feel” can be built in to electronic steering systems, as manufacturers such as Ford and Porsche have done so well in current products. Finally, there is the question of failover, which is provided for by three redundant computers and a clutch which in an emergency can mechanically link the steering to the steering rack, presumably as the car is brought to an immediate halt.
Nissan Press Release follows:
Nissan Pioneers First-Ever*1 Independent Control Steering Technology; To Be On Sale Within a Year
– Delivers responsive performance by controlling tire and steering angles inputs independently-
YOKOHAMA, Japan (October 17, 2012) – Nissan Motor Co., Ltd. today unveiled the world’s first steering technology that allows independent control of a vehicle’s tire angle and steering inputs. This next-generation steering technology was developed by Nissan.
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 traveling on the intended path becomes easier. Accompanying this next-generation steering technology, Nissan has also developed a camera-based straight-line stability system to further enhance on-center driving capability. This system is a world-first*2 technology that improves vehicle stability by making small input angle adjustments so the vehicle will accurately trace and continue as planned in the lane it is traveling. If the vehicle direction changes due to road surface or crosswinds, the system acts to minimize the effect of these conditions resulting in reduced steering input from the driver.
Using a camera mounted above the vehicle’s rearview mirror, the system analyzes the road ahead, recognizes the lane direction, detects changes in the vehicle’s direction, and transmits this information to multiple electronic control units as electronic signals. If a discrepancy occurs, the system acts to reduce the discrepancy by controlling the opposing force to the tire angle. By reducing the frequency of detailed steering input adjustments, which are a cause of fatigue on long drives, the driver’s workload is greatly reduced.
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” for owners.
*1: World-first development of an independent control steering technology that controls tire and steering angles inputs independently.
*2: World-first development of an accurate tracing technology that enables a driver to continue driving as planned in the lane with small steering angle adjustments (depending on road conditions).