We recently had the opportunity to test a lane keep assist system, developed by Ford, in the 2013 Lincoln MKZ. This system uses a camera mounted behind the rear-view mirror and watches the road ahead. It can identify the lines on the road and then determine where the vehicle is. If the driver veers too close to the lines, the system can automatically apply turn the steering wheel and navigate it back into the lane.
For a driver who is not distracted, he or she is making many small adjustments to the steering wheel every second to keep the vehicle in the correct lane. Lane keep assist only comes into play when the vehicle is about to leave the lane completely. If the driver were to enable the system and take his or her hands off the wheel (not recommended), the vehicle would drive down the road bouncing off each lane line. Also, if the driver approaches the line too quickly, like in a lane-change maneuver, the system will not interfere.
Ford also uses the system to determine if the driver is starting to fall asleep at the wheel. If the driver hits the lines too many times, the car will advise the driver to pull over and rest (or drink coffee). Also, if the driver is driving distracted without his or her hands on the wheel, the system will also sound an alarm. As mentioned before, an attentive driver makes many mini-corrections while driving. If the wheel is being held solidly in place, either the driver has let go or needs to pay attention.
Ford is not the only company using this type of technology Mercedes-Benz has been using a system like this that can completely stop the vehicle for a driver if he or she cannot see, or is not paying attention. In addition, the system from Mercedes-Benz can also detect pedestrians and actively avoid them.
As computers and radar units become standard in more vehicles, advanced accident avoidance features will become more commonplace.