You’ve likely seen an inattentive driver on the road, drifting out of their lane while they check their phone, reaching for something in the back seat or fiddling with their infotainment system. Or maybe, that driver was you.
Since drivers are more distracted these days automakers are looking to stop crashes before they happen.
One way is with lane departure warning or lane keep assist systems. By using a camera-based system, many new cars can detect when they are leaving the lane without the driver signalling.
When shopping for your next car, lane keeping assist may be on your wish list, but different automakers have unique solutions to help you keep your eyes on the road, so which one is best for you?
Passive Lane Keeping Assist
The first type of warning system is known as passive setup. This type of assist warns you when you’re leaving your lane, but leaves it up to you to make any corrections.
The warning can come in a few ways. Some cars, like the Mazda3, will use a non-threatening beep to remind you that you’re leaving your lane. Alongside these audible warnings are usually a graphic in the gauge cluster that can quickly explain which lane marking you’re crossing.
These graphics also explain whether or not the car is detecting the lane markings. Usually when the car “sees” the lanes, it displays two lines on the gauge cluster. Ford even goes one further and color codes the lines, going yellow when the car drifts closer to one line then red when it crosses it.
A down-side of these audible systems is that, well. . . they’re audible and can be a little embarrassing if you have passengers. No one wants to look like an inattentive driver. And while effective, they can also just be annoying. To combat this, automakers have designed some more subtle ways of alerting drivers that they’re drifting out of their lane.
Ford’s solution vibrates the steering wheel, while Cadillac and GM cars have vibrating seats. In Cadillac vehicles equipped with this feature, only one side of the seat vibrates to indicate which side of the lane you’re crossing. These haptic warnings allow only the driver to know about the blunder, so they can then calmly return their attention to the road without anyone being the wiser.
Active Lane Keeping Assist
Other cars like to take things into their own (digital) hands. Active systems actually maneuver the car in order to prevent it from leaving the lane or assist you in bringing the car back into the lane. Many of these systems only operate at specific speeds. Acura’s system only works between 45 mph and 90 mph, while Mercedes’ works from 0 all the way up to 124 mph.
The Infiniti Q50 also employs an active system, which uses the car’s steer-by-wire digital steering system. Using a camera mounted in the windshield, the car can determine the parameters of the lane and will automatically center itself on the road.
SEE ALSO: 2014 Infiniti Q50S Hybrid Review
Similarly, the Acura MDX can sense when it will be crossing the lane markings and steer away from that boundary. Acura’s systems are even active while you have your signal on, ensuring you don’t veer out of your lane while doing a shoulder-check.
Those that don’t physically move the steering wheel to bring you back into the lane, like some Mercedes-Benz and Infinti models (Q50 excluded), use subtle braking on one side of the car to steer it back into the center of the lines.
These active systems tend to be found on luxury cars, meaning you’ll likely pay a premium in order to get a vehicle with them. Some vehicles come with a passive system, while the active system is an optional upgrade.
Even though these active setups practically steer your car for you, they stop working after a few seconds and remind you to take control of the vehicle.
Which is Best?
With all the safety systems found in new cars, passive lane-departure systems tend to be the most intrusive. Even if there is no one around and you decide to change lanes without signalling, they tend to notice and make a ruckus. For those who want the safety without the annoyances, the passive vibrating seat systems and active systems tend to be the least annoying to deal with.
Here are ten examples of the most popular vehicles with lane-keep systems, and what kind of system they offer:
- 2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 features a passive system when equipped with the $845 Driver Alert Package. There’s both an audible warning and vibrating seat feature.
- 2014 Honda Accord EX-L comes with passive lane departure warning, with visual alerts that light up on the driver’s instrument panel and an available audible warning.
- 2014 Nissan Altima 2.5 SV models can be equipped with $1,090 technology package, that includes a passive system which makes audible warnings and provides a visual indication.
- 2014 Ford Fusion SE and Titanium models with the 1.5-liter or 2.0-liter EcoBoost engines can be equipped with driver assist packages that include an active lane keep assist system.
- 2014 Chevrolet Equinox 2LT can be equipped with the $590 safety package that includes a passive lane departure warning system that audibly and visually notifies you when you’re leaving the lane. LTZ models come with this feature as standard equipment.
- 2014 Toyota RAV4 Limited models with the Technology Package include lane departure alert that will use audible and visual warnings when drivers inadvertently depart the lane.
- 2015 Hyundai Sonata is available with Lane Departure Warning with the Ultimate Package in the Limited and Sport 2.0T models. It’s a passive system that warns you audibly and visually.
- 2014 BMW 328i and BMW 335i are available with lane departure warning as part of the $1,900 Driver Assistance Plus Package. This is a passive system that vibrates the cars steering wheel.
- 2014 Mercedes-Benz E-Class has two packages with lane keeping systems. The $875 Lane Tracking Package features a passive lane departure warning system that vibrates the steering wheel. The $2,800 Driver Assistance Package includes the Active Lane Keeping Assist that will brake individual wheels to help guide the car back into its lane when you drift out of it.
- 2015 Acura TLX with the Technology Package comes with both a Lane Departure Warning system that will passively alert the driver of any unintended lane change, and a Lane Keeping Assist System that can steer the car back into the lane.