I bought a new car. And not just new to me. An actual, for real, new car.
When we moved to California, we had to buy cars for both Cynthia and I. Importing our existing vehicles was more trouble than it was worth. We both bought used cars. Cynthia got a 2007 Toyota Matrix and I got a 2005 Infiniti G35.
I have always been happy with the G35 but it was now ten years old and it was time for something new. That something new was the Infiniti Q50. It is essentially the successor of the G35 I was driving but in some ways, it is an entirely new car.
The Q50 has “drive by wire”. The steering wheel has a mechanical connection to the wheel but that is a backup. With the Q50, when you turn the steering wheel, software responds to that and makes the appropriate change to the direction of the front tires. Feedback goes both ways so you still get a feel for the car through corners. This also allows you to select the kind of handling you want. Do you want loose casual handling? Do you want tight control in “sport mode”?
It has a pile of safety features. It has blind spot detection so small lights on either side come on if there is a vehicle in a blind spot. If you try to turn towards a car which is in your blind spot, it sends an audible alarm. It will even take temporary control and stop you from steering into the other car. Again, because it is “drive by wire”, it can do these kinds of things in software. The Q50 even tries to detect the lanes and it will warn you if you are drifting out of your lane. Again, if you ignore the alert, it will take over and put you back in your lane.
The Q50 is monitoring the distance between you and the car in front of you. If that car brakes quickly, the Q50 will brake for you in order to try to avoid an accident. Even more, the Q50 is monitoring the distance between the car in front of you and the next one ahead. If the car in front of you is closing quickly on the next car, then chances are the driver ahead of you is going to slam on the brakes. Again, the Q50 will brake preemptively. I have seen this come on at times and it feels strange to suddenly be slowing when maybe you still have your foot on the gas. But there is evidence that features like this really do reduce the chance of collisions, so I am willing to put up with that odd feeling the very few times it happens.
But the feature I like the most is the adaptive cruise control. We drove to Toronto recently and it was my first chance to really try it. Basically, you set a target speed and the Q50 tries to go that fast. But if you are approaching someone going slower, the car automatically slows down to keep a safe distance. You have some control over what that safe distance is. I think I took cruise control off three times in the whole trip to Toronto. I had cruise control on through Toronto highway traffic! As you approach someone going slower, you just signal and switch to the right lane. The Q50 detects that the lane is clear and goes back to the target speed. No need to turn off cruise control. Normally, you have to make decisions. Can I leave cruise on? How close will I get to this guy in front of me before I can get to the right and pass him? And you are always tempted to get too close. Now, I just don’t worry about it. The car is managing my speed. I am just making decisions about which lane to travel in and when it is safe to switch. The stress level for the trip was definitely lower.
I am very happy with my new car. And it is definitely an intermediate point along the way to truly self-driving cars. I like to drive but if I could have let the car drive us to Toronto on our recent trip, I would have.