Look, Ma, no hands! How lane-keep assist works

No doubt one of the hardest things about driving a car is staying in your lane.

Naturally, one-to-two tons of steel will move around due to any number of reasons: wind, road imperfections and even bad wheel alignment.

So what does any sensible driver do? Make small adjustments to the car’s steering wheel to keep the vehicle in lane. But what if we didn’t even need to do that anymore?

Part of the technological revolution happening in cars right now is the introduction of active safety systems. One of the key features of this is lane-keep assist and lane-centering assist.

Stay in your lane

Lane-keep assist prevents a car from straying over into the other lane or into oncoming traffic, in the case of a two-lane road.

Meanwhile, lane-centering assist adds to the aforementioned feature by measuring the distance the car has between both lines of the lane and keep the car dead-center.

The technology is only really possible with the introduction of onboard cameras that are able to translate the picture into binary so that the on-board computers can “see” the world around them as we see it.

They’re able to see the markings on the road through this technology and determine where the lane is the same way we do.

Taking the wheel

Along with the onboard camera, the car’s lane-keep and lane-centering functions use drive-by-wire technology, specifically fully electric power steering.

In most new cars, there’s no physical link between the steering wheel and the steering rack anymore.

The rack is operated via an electric motor that spins in either direction and the motor is controlled by a steering sensor and controller linked to the steering wheel.

What this means is that the computer can, in some cases, take the wheel and steer you away from what it perceives as a potential obstruction.

In essence, the computer perceives the white and yellow lines on the road as “obstructions” and, therefore, keeps the car from crossing them.

And if you want to change lanes yourself, the process is simple: the turn signal is the override.

The systems were very effective in the Honda HR-V Turbo and Toyota Corolla Hybrid that we tested, which were both equipped with active safety technology.

In some cars, using the turn signal even sets in motion an automated lane-change assist, where the car moves lanes for you.

Honestly, if you had a car with this feature, along with adaptive cruise control, you may as well sit back, relax and let the car do all the work.

But because fully autonomous driving is not yet legal, these features include a sensor that can detect if your hands are off the wheel. So don’t even think about it!

Source: Look, Ma, no hands! How lane-keep assist works

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