Detroit Auto Show 2013: New Infiniti Augurs A Future Without Steering Wheels

The most exciting aspect of the new Infiniti Q50 is the steer-by-wire technology, which could render steering wheels obsolete.

Meet the Infiniti Q50, formerly the G37. In case you haven’t heard, Infiniti is renaming all the cars in its lineup with the letter Q. (We don’t know. It must have focus-grouped well.)

What we find interesting here is not the arbitrary-seeming naming convention but the steering technology: This is the first major production car to use steer-by-wire (although as @evchels reminded me, the EV1 used steer-by-wire back in the mid-1990s).

It’s the automotive version of fly-by-wire; Infiniti calls it Direct Adaptive Steering. To vastly oversimplify, wires and processors and actuators, rather than mechanical linkages, relay the motion of the steering wheel to the actual wheels. (Sort of. The Q50 still has a conventional steering column, for backup.)

The car’s steer-by-wire tech is the automotive version of fly-by-wire.

It’s significant mainly because of what it could, eventually, maybe make possible. With steer-by-wire, there’s no fundamental reason why you need a wheel to steer the car. A joystick would work. So would voice control. Or the keystrokes of the anonymous overlord who controls your every motion while still leaving you with the impression that you possess free will. Anyway, the car goes on sale at the end of the summer.