(Another installment in our continuing series looking at how the cars of yesterday are being transformed into the driverless cars of tomorrow via the technology of today.)
Today’s look at the move toward driverless technology involves two features. One is called “lane departure warning, ” and the other “lane keeping assist.” Both are designed to give a little extra help to the daydreamer, the drowsy or the distracted.
Hey, Buddy, I’m Drivin’ Here
Chances are pretty good that within the first five minutes that you have entered the freeway, you will see someone drifting across the edge of their lane. If you’re anything like me, this is the time to shout a little “encouragement” to put them back on the straight and narrow. If they are driving a car equipped with lane departure warning you can save your breath because their car will do the shouting for you. Depending on the manufacturer, this warning will either come in the form of a flashing light on the dashboard, a warning sound of some sort or, in some cases, a seat vibration to the buttock closest to the white line being violated. As a quick personal note, it is probably best that my car is not equipped with that final feature as I might find it incredibly relaxing after a long, stressful day to drive the whole way home straddling the white line.
Feature Two Kicks It Up a Notch
Lane keeping assist enhances the safety or, depending on personality, the aggravation of the driver. This feature allows the car to self-correct and the steering will automatically place the car back to the center of the lane. I mentioned the word aggravation as many drivers are still reluctant to trust vehicle automation over their own driving instinct.
My Experience with Lane Assist
I had the opportunity recently to play chauffeur for my in-laws in my father-in-law’s car. Even though I married this man’s daughter nearly 35 years ago, I still sometimes feel like a teenager behind the wheel when he is in the passenger seat. I lovingly describe my father-in-law as a “belt and suspenders” type of guy as he is not one to take chances. Considering that before his retirement he had spent over four decades operating pressurized metal tubes full of people at high altitude, this is a laudable character trait. However, there are times I think he could relax just a touch back here on terra firma.
On this most recent trip, it did not take long for me to feel as though I were back driving on a permit. Dad-in-law took no small delight in letting me know the cause of the little beeping sound that had taken me by surprise. Generally speaking, unless there is a car following me relatively closely on the highway, my practice is to hit my turn signal nearly simultaneous with a lane change. Since the lane departure warning is only deactivated by an appropriately timed turn signal, let’s just say that the warning chime was a fairly regular part of the soundscape during our 45-minute commute. Much to my chagrin, I only compounded my mistake by relating the anecdote to my wife. Thanks to that lapse in judgment, she has now decided that this feature has become her new non-negotiable for her next new vehicle purchase.