Nissan shows safety features, electronic steering

Oct 17, 2012 by Yuri Kageyama
In this Friday, Oct. 12, 2012 photo, a Nissan staff driver, partially seen at left, of a Leaf electric vehicle, releases his hands from the steering wheel as he shows automated steering parking technology at the Japanese automaker's test ground in Yokohama, south of Tokyo. In the demonstration the vehicle turned on its own and backed into a charging station. The car is potentially capable of parking itself, even without a driver, according to Nissan. (AP Photo/Yuri Kageyama)

Electronically managed steering that completely bypasses the mechanical link of a clutch is among the new safety technology from Japanese automaker Nissan. Other vehicles are smart enough to park themselves. And some swerve automatically to avoid pedestrians.

Co. Executive Vice President Mitsuhiko Yamashita said the latest safety advancements are proactive, unlike air-bags and other "passive" features that are triggered by a crash.

Next-generation steering uses to control tires, not a mechanical link. It's set to be introduced in an Infiniti luxury model within a year, and would be a world first for a commercially produced car. In the auto industry, the technology is being touted as the biggest innovation in steering since the widespread adoption of power-assisted steering, which uses hydraulics to make turning the wheels easier.

Nissan executives say electronic steering is safer because drivers tend to overcompensate, such as when traveling in gusty wind, and veer off too much. They say the feature also adds to the psychological sense of security for the driver, which in turn contributes to safety because stress is often behind accidents.

In this Friday, Oct. 12, 2012 photo, a Nissan staff driver, left, of a Leaf electric vehicle, releases his hands from the steering wheel as he shows automated steering parking technology at the Japanese automaker's test ground in Yokosuka, south of Tokyo. In the demonstration the vehicle turned on its own and backed into a charging station. The car is potentially capable of parking itself, even without a driver, according to Nissan. (AP Photo/Yuri Kageyama)

With the technology, sensations of bumpy roads get mitigated and steering becomes super-quick and fine-tuned, Nissan said.

Vehicles equipped with electronic steering will still come with a mechanical clutch as a backup that kicks in if the electronic system fails.

Nissan also showed "autonomous emergency steering," designed to avoid collisions through turns when braking would be too late.

Although many automakers, including Volkswagen AG, . and Co., offer automatic braking, Nissan's still experimental system takes the idea a step further to steer away in unexpected situations such as a pedestrian suddenly moving into the path of a vehicle.

In this Friday, Oct. 12, 2012 photo, a Nissan car, right, tries to avoid a pedestrian dummy, second left, being pushed out by a Nissan worker, to a street behind the parked vehicles during a demonstration of "autonomous emergency steering" at the Japanese automaker's test ground in Yokosuka, south of Tokyo. The new safety technology is designed to avoid collisions through turns when braking would be too late. (AP Photo/Yuri Kageyama)

But Yamashita acknowledged the technology, which relies on radars and cameras, is still incomplete, and the vehicle still could crash into something else just as it steers away from the pedestrian.

Nissan also showed nifty parking technology that senses if the driver mistakenly steps on the gas pedal instead of the brakes, and corrects that.

Another was automated steering so the car parks without the driver lifting a finger. In a recent demonstration for reporters at a Nissan facility, a Leaf electric vehicle turned on its own and backed into a charging station.

In this Friday, Oct. 12, 2012 photo, a Nissan car, right, tries to avoid a pedestrian dummy, second left, being pushed out by a Nissan worker, to a street behind the parked vehicles during a demonstration of "autonomous emergency steering" at the Japanese automaker's test ground in Yokosuka, south of Tokyo. The new safety technology is designed to avoid collisions through turns when braking would be too late. (AP Photo/Yuri Kageyama)

Toru Hatano, analyst at IHS Automotive, believes that safety technology such as automatic stopping before crashes will become more popular even in cheaper models. He said the feature that detects when a driver pushes on the accelerator by mistake would likely be a hit in aging societies such as Japan.

"It's an effective way for automakers to differentiate themselves and appeal to consumers," he said.

Nissan said it was well on its way to achieving its target of halving deaths and serious injuries from traffic accidents involving Nissan vehicles by 2015, compared with 1995 data. Making that zero is Nissan's goal. Some 1.3 million people die in car wrecks every year.

Explore further: Japan firm showcases 'touchable' 3D technology

More information: www.nissan-global.com/EN/NEWS/… ORY/121017-02-e.html
www.nissan-global.com/EN/NEWS/… ORY/121017-01-e.html

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Eikka
1 / 5 (1) Oct 17, 2012
They say the feature also adds to the psychological sense of security for the driver


I do not feel safer to know that there is no mechanical link between the steering wheel and the tires. A simple power failure will make the car un-steerable.

Drive-by-wire is a bad idea in cars because it has no passive safety. If the power goes, or the CAN bus shits itself for any reason, the car becomes a 75 mph coffin.
hb_
not rated yet Oct 17, 2012
@Eikka

But most commercial planes are fly-by-wire, and I suppose you don't feel unsafe in them, do you? Fuel injection of modern engins require functioning micro-processors, so I suppose we are well past the time when a car could function in an "all-mechanical" mode...

No, what worries me is if we get remote control of the steering whenever a police or a government agency would deem it necessary. Add remote control of the door locks, and you would have a perfect tool for totalitarian control.
antialias_physorg
not rated yet Oct 17, 2012
No, what worries me is if we get remote control of the steering

I don't think anyone would want car electronics to be remotely accessible. The hack potential would just be far too great.

Add remote control of the door locks, and you would have a perfect tool for totalitarian control.

Totalitarianism takes a bit more than the ability to lock your car door.
Eikka
not rated yet Oct 18, 2012
But most commercial planes are fly-by-wire, and I suppose you don't feel unsafe in them, do you?


Most commercial airplanes have strict maintenance and inspections routines to make sure that they don't just randomly fall off the sky. That said, there was a recent case where an A320 plane in Switzerland had its computer smash it down to the side of a mountain because the pilots made a manoveur during turbulence and an obscure "safety" feature erroneously overcompensated their orders.

Failure of the ECU, ABS, ESP, power steering, brake assist etc. doesn't put me completely out of control a car. As long as I still have hydraulic brakes and mechanical steering, I can hold the car on the road and stop it safely.

The moment my steering wheel goes limp because a battery cable came loose over a pothole, I'm screwed.

Eikka
not rated yet Oct 18, 2012
What I'm more worried about though is that I'd sit in the car, turn my cellphone on, and instead of the radio going the usual "tah tah tah dah tah..." it would be the steering wheel that does.