Tech’splaining: What is Lane Centering Assist, How Does It Work?

  • Christian Wardlaw has 25 years of experience serving in automotive editorial leadership roles with Autobytel, Edmunds, J.D. Power, and Tribune Publishing. A married father of four, Chris is based in the Los Angeles suburbs and believes fuel cell electric vehicles will power the future.

can be reached at christianwardlaw@gmail.com
  • Christian Wardlaw has 25 years of experience serving in automotive editorial leadership roles with Autobytel, Edmunds, J.D. Power, and Tribune Publishing. A married father of four, Chris is based in the Los Angeles suburbs and believes fuel cell electric vehicles will power the future.

can be reached at christianwardlaw@gmail.com
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Lane centering assist is a Level 2 autonomous driving technology that helps a driver keep a vehicle centered in the middle of the intended lane of travel. Such systems are not replacements for driver input or readiness.

Imagine that you’re tired, it’s late at night, and you’re an hour away from home. Lane centering assist will help you to keep your vehicle securely in the lane. It will not, however, allow you to nap while cruising down the freeway.

True, some systems are designed to work hands-free for extended periods of time, such as Cadillac Super Cruise. Others request that a driver place his or her hands back on the steering wheel within seconds. Regardless of the system, as of now, they require an attentive driver who is ready to take control when necessary.

Yes, even Tesla Autopilot. So no nodding off in your Model Whatever.

Lane Centering Assist Relies on Cameras

Illustration of Volvo Pilot Assist in action
Volvo’s Pilot Assist technology is among the more capable lane keeping and centering systems available today. (Volvo)

 

Lane centering assist is part of a lane keeping assist system, and is only available with adaptive cruise control and when the adaptive cruise control is active.

Using camera-based lane keeping technology, lane centering assist identifies lane markings and attempts to keep your vehicle in the middle of the lane of travel. More sophisticated versions of the technology can steer around moderate freeway curves, operate across a wider range of vehicle speeds, and follow a vehicle ahead, such as through a construction zone where lane markings are absent.

In Europe, the latest Audi A8 offers Traffic Jam Pilot, which is a Level 3 autonomous driving system. That means it is more sophisticated than Cadillac Super Cruise and Tesla Autopilot. Unfortunately, weary American commuters can’t get Traffic Jam Pilot, because it is not approved for use in the U.S.

Drivers (Still) Needed

Hold steering wheel warning with Tesla Autopilot
Lane centering assist is a Level 2 semi-autonomous technology. That means the driver still needs to pay attention and hold the steering wheel. Cadillac Super Cruise is the only system allowing hands-free driving under explicitly defined conditions. (Tesla)

 

Lane centering assist systems aid drivers rather than replace drivers. Most require you to hold the steering wheel, and if you don’t you’ll get a warning. Ignore the warning, and eventually the technology assumes that you’re suffering a medical emergency or that you’re just goofing off.

Some car companies treat driver unresponsiveness as a medical emergency. The Mercedes-Benz Driver Assistance Package is an example, bringing the vehicle to a safe stop and placing an SOS call for help. Others are not as sophisticated, such as Hyundai SmartSense, but will slow the vehicle before the lane centering assist system disengages.

People eager to own a self-driving car can’t wait for the day when they can spend even more time on Twitter or Insta or Snap while the software handles the daily commute. That day isn’t here yet, no matter what Elon Musk might lead you to believe. And while lane centering assist is a step toward that driverless future, for now, the person sitting behind the steering wheel needs to hold onto it, eyes forward.


About the Author

  • Christian Wardlaw has 25 years of experience serving in automotive editorial leadership roles with Autobytel, Edmunds, J.D. Power, and Tribune Publishing. A married father of four, Chris is based in the Los Angeles suburbs and believes fuel cell electric vehicles will power the future.

can be reached at christianwardlaw@gmail.com
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