This week we’ve had a car with no steering, and a car that takes over the steering when you’re not capable.
Just where is technology taking us?
Let’s swerve first to the car with no steering.
OK, that’s a slight exaggeration. Yes, it has steering, but not the sort that connects with the wheels in the conventional sense. You see, it’s all electronic, all aviation style fly-by-wire stuff.
The car in question is the new Infiniti Q50. You might not have heard of Infiniti, but to put you in the picture, Infiniti is Nissan’s upmarket brand that wants to take on the BMW 3 Series and the Audi A4 with its new Q50 saloon.
And this fly-by-wire steering gives the Q50 a technological first. Infiniti calls it Direct Adaptive Steering. Which means that every time you turn the steering wheel, the movement is communicated to the front wheels electronically.
What are the advantages? Infiniti says it provides a more relaxed drive because you no longer feel every jolt and pothole bang through the steering wheel.
You can also programme the steering to your tastes via a touch screen with one of four modes.
However, weight saving is not one of Direct Adaptive Steering’s benefits. For safety reasons the Infiniti is still required to have a conventional safety rack should the electronics go wrong.
Which is a bit like going to a Chinese restaurant and eating with chopsticks but the waiter insisting on providing normal eating irons ‘just in case’.
Of course, chop sticks have their own challenges, not least the moment when, transporting your chosen food to your lips, it escapes and either falls on your lap or splashes on your plate – and your shirt.
Ford has an answer to such dining faux pas, though – at least metaphorically.
It has developed a system that will take over the chop sticks just at the moment of impending food drop danger and deliver the contents safely to your mouth.
It’s called Obstacle Avoidance and uses automatic steering and braking to help you avoid collisions while driving.
The system, fitted to a Ford Focus, is still in its prototype stage but promises to offer a safer driving environment.
So what does Obstacle Avoidance technology do? The system issues warnings to the driver if it detects slow-moving objects, stationary obstacles or pedestrians in the road ahead. Then, if the driver fails to heed any of these warnings by steering or braking, Obstacle Avoidance automatically takes over the steering and braking to prevent a collision.
You can see a video of the system in action here. It’s intriguing, although I wonder how well it would cope with congested city roads?
Still, anything to prevent me getting food on my shirt or in my lap is to be welcomed. As is technology that makes my journey to the restaurant smoother, more relaxing – and safer.