I've never been a fan of lane-departure warning devices. Vehicles with these systems seemed like overanxious nannies, buzzing with alarm whenever I even thought about changing lanes.
But now I'm willing to give the technology a second look. A few weeks ago, I test drove TRW's Lane Keeping Assist, which was installed in a Lancia Delta.
Like other systems, TRW's unit relies on a camera to monitor the road's lane markings. But instead of buzzing me with an audible warning, it gently steers the vehicle back into the lane.
On a country road near TRW's test track in Williamston, Mich., I drove the Lancia at about 50 mph on straightaways and curves. If I wanted to change lanes, it was quite easy to override the system and steer the vehicle where I wanted to go. When I let go of the steering wheel on a curve, the system worked flawlessly by keeping my car in its lane.
In 2015, TRW will put its system into North American production for an unidentified automaker. It will be interesting to see whether it catches on.