What Are the Benefits of Steer-By-Wire Technology?
The future of steering is here... but, what is it, exactly?
Perhaps you have heard of this newfangled steer-by-wire technology and found yourself wondering exactly what it means. Infiniti has recently announced plans to utilize steer-by-wire technology in its 2014 Q50 models, and the early impressions of how it feels have been quite positive. That’s great…you think.
So what is steer-by-wire, exactly? Think of it as controlling your vehicle as you were playing a driving video game. Most of the vehicles we use today require standard mechanical means where physical interaction with the steering wheel largely determines how much the car moves. To simplify it (and to fit it tidily into the video game analog), this is more akin to how old pedal cars steer: you physically move the steering wheel, and the car is guided appropriately.
With steer-by-wire, however, the vehicle’s computer receives a command from the connected device, and the computer in turn sends that command to the wheels. Notice the distinct lack of the term “steering wheel”: with the development of this technology, it is entirely possible that vehicles will no longer require the traditional rack-and-column dashboard design because the steering wheel will no longer be a required means for steering. You could realistically drive a steer-by-wire car the same way you steer King Boo when you play your friends in Mario Kart.
Sure, very high tech and all that. But what are the benefits of steer-by-wire technology? Drive-by-wire systems will require considerably fewer parts—they can effectively eliminate the need for steering columns, pumps, hoses, and belts—which will serve to reduce the vehicle’s weight. A lighter car generally means better fuel efficiency and lowered emissions.
Additionally, by getting rid of so many of those wriggly rubber things under the hood whose only function of which you are keenly aware is the ability to break in some capacity and then cost you money, drive-by-wire cars will be able to go longer between maintenance checks.
Naturally, there will be some growing pains and possibly some resistance to the new technology. Folks might even be nervous to see just how different a drive-by-wire car feels in comparison to an old fashion mechanical system. When the 2014 Q50s start gracing dealerships nationwide, much of that doubt can be alleviated at last with a simple test drive.