A driver-friendly way to help you stay in your lane
David Sedgwick is a special correspondent for Automotive News.
I have never been a fan of lane-departure warning devices. The systems seemed like anxious 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 video camera to monitor the road’s lane markings.
But instead of buzzing me with an audible warning, it gently steered 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 lane-departure warning system into North American production for an unidentified automaker.
Naturally, TRW is bullish about this technology. The company expects that 20 to 25 percent of vehicles sold in the United States will be equipped with cameras by 2015.
A long list of brands -- including Lexus, Mercedes-Benz, Cadillac, Buick and Volvo -- now offer lane-departure warning systems, and Mercedes has a system that steers the vehicle back into the lane.
But it isn’t clear yet whether this technology is effective at reducing accidents.
After studying vehicle crash data, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety concluded in July that lane-departure warning systems are ineffective.
The study’s author speculated that motorists -- annoyed by the warning buzzers -- might be turning the systems off.
But the institute noted that it has not yet studied systems that steer the vehicle back into the lane.
A TRW-style system that gently steers the vehicle back into the lane might prove more effective simply because it doesn’t annoy the motorist.
So the jury is out on this technology.
You can reach David Sedgwick at email@example.com.