It turns out that right before the 2014 Infiniti Q50 had been named the Techiest Vehicle of the Year by TechHive.com—as reported here —the car’s breakthrough advance had earned the automotive Grand Award in this year’s Popular Science Best of What’s New voting.
That would be Infiniti’s Direct Adaptive Steering, which is the first drive-by-wire steering system ever offered in a production vehicle. Simply put, the technology eliminates the traditional, mechanical connection between the car’s tiller and the front wheels; instead, it relies on electronics to transmit driver inputs from the steering wheel to the road, as well as to provide appropriate levels of feedback to the driver. The benefits, according to Michael Bartsch, vice-president of Infiniti Americas: “It is more precise, quicker, less tiring, easier to keep the vehicle in the center of the lane, and allows previously unattainable levels of driver personalization. Someday all vehicles will have steer-by-wire, today we are the only one.”
As well as serving up a unique driving experience in the 2014 Infiniti Q50, the setup was further praised by Popular Science as “one of the biggest steps yet toward” the development of fully autonomous vehicles.
Also being recognized as part of Pop Sci’s Best of What’s New program, designed to highlight the “innovations that are reshaping the future right before our eyes,” were …
The 2014 Infiniti Q50 was, as mentioned, the automotive Grand Award winner, but Best of What’s New honors also went to nine other vehicles this year:
- Audi R18 e-tron Quattro—The first diesel-hybrid racecar to win the 24 Hours Le Mans and the World Endurance Championship, which it’s now done two years in a row.
- BMW i3—Not at dealerships quite yet, but expected to feature a carbon-fiber chassis, an all-electric driving range of 80-100 miles and an available range-extending gasoline engine.
- Chevrolet Corvette Stingray—Combining “the technology and performance of much pricier sports cars, including $250,000-and-up Ferraris and Lamborghinis, with a $51,995 sticker price.”
- Chevrolet Spark EV—Highlighted by a low net cost ($19,185), a long all-electric driving range (82 miles) and a cutting-edge three-mode charging plug.
- Ford’s 1.0-liter EcoBoost engine—Delivering 123 hp, 148 lb.-ft. of torque and up to 41 mpg in the 2014 Ford Fiesta—despite just 1.0-liter of displacement and three cylinders.
- Genshock—A prototype active suspension from ZF and Levant Power, with the ability to capture energy produced when driving over bumps and convert it to electricity.
- Mazda Mazda6—More specifically, the model with Mazda’s i-ELoop capacitor-based regenerative braking system and Skyactiv-D clean-diesel engine, expected to deliver 45 mpg.
- Mercedes-Benz S-Class—Chockfull of “some of the most significant advances in safety and autonomy on the market today,” including advanced night vision with a 500-foot range.
- Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid—A plug-in Porsche capable of running from 0-60 in 5.2 seconds, travelling up to 33 miles in all-electric mode and recharging its lithium-ion battery while driving.