Ever had a shopping cart where one wheel isn’t spinning properly? It’s binding every now and then. Imagine it being the one closest to your right hand as you push the shopping cart. What’s going to happen? As you fight with the cart, you’ll notice that it tends to veer right. That right wheel closest to you almost feels like it’s clamped down, causing the other wheels to go around it.
Ah… This is exactly what happens with some of the modern vehicle safety controls.
Let’s say you’re going into a turn too fast. You’re cranking the steering wheel as much as possible and the car isn’t quite making the turn! The 2016 Nissan Maxima has an Active Trace Control technology that applies braking to an individual wheel to compensate for your misjudgement and help you make that turn. Now, this technology is on many other vehicles but I did get to test out this feature on a track with Nissan Canada.
Let me tell you, there’s nothing like trying to lose control of a car on purpose to see how systems kick in! It's a good thing we were on a closed course; I held back on the curse words with the camera pointing right at me – and thank goodness I didn’t have to repair any of these vehicles!
What impressed me with the 2016 Nissan Maxima is how much information your car is getting about your driving style. So while you’re driving along and humming to your favourite tune, the vehicle’s computer is calculating the angle of your steering wheel, how much acceleration you’re applying, vehicle speed, how much braking you’re doing, etc. It takes all of this info and uses it to help you maintain control of the car.
Another technology in the Nissan Maxima is the Active Engine Brake. When you come into a turn you typically have to slow the vehicle down a bit at the beginning of the turn. Active engine brake changes the gear ratio in the transmission (specifically, Nissan’s CVT – Continuously Variable Transmission) to help slow the car down. Anyone who’s driven a manual transmission or been a passenger with someone starting learn will know the feeling of engine brake – you can slow the car down without having to apply the brakes. The advantage to this technology is that less effort is required when you have the engine doing some of the slowing down for you.
One more thing about the shopping cart: next time you go down the aisle, notice how you’re pushing the cart. Chances are, unless you have a brand-new cart, each hand is slightly pushing to a different degree to keep the cart going straight. Or you’re one of those who leans on the handle and you’ve got your elbows doing the steering! Did you know that even when you’re driving straight on the road, you’re actually moving the steering wheel ever so slightly here and there? The thing is that these movements are so subtle and natural that we feel like we’re not moving at all. The 2016 Nissan Maxima takes these movements (industry term is ‘steering input’) and establishes a pattern for the driver. If the Maxima doesn’t detect any movement for a given distance, it’ll flag you this alert:
Studies have shown that when we’re tired or drowsy, we tend to have less frequent steering input. Now your car can suggest to you when it might be time for a coffee break! This is one way Nissan has decided to help drivers minimize fatigued driving. Yep, I tried minimizing my steering inputs during my road test and sure enough, I got the sign to stop for a break. I wasn't drowsy but it was still a good reason for me to make a detour to Starbucks!
The next time you fight with that stubborn shopping cart, remember that when it comes to your car that’s the kind of technology that helps you maintain control on the road!
Image Source: Wikicommons