Infiniti Lane Departure Warning System. Click image to enlarge
by Jim Kerr
Those paint markings on the road define the areas we are supposed to drive in. Unfortunately, sometimes our minds wander and so do our vehicles. The auto manufacturers and suppliers have been working on systems for several years now that will help us stay in our lanes.
Mercedes-Benz even had a research vehicle that used electronics to monitor on-coming traffic and road condition, signal, pull out and pass, and pull back into the driving lane without the driver ever touching a control or the steering wheel. This sounds like science fiction, and we are not quite there yet, but there are systems on the way. Infiniti is offering a lane departure warning system on the 2005 FX 35 and FX 45 SUV’s and the 2006 Infiniti M45.
The Infiniti Lane Departure system uses a small camera mounted behind the rear view mirror to monitor the road. The camera transmits the types of lane markings to an advanced microprocessor unit where both the distance the vehicle is from the lane marking and the rate of change in lateral distance is calculated. The microprocessor then compares this to its programming to determine if the vehicle is moving out of its lane.
When the vehicle moves out of its lane, the driver receives both a visual warning on the dash and an audible alert so inattentive or drowsy drivers will be able to correct the vehicle’s direction.
There are some situations when the Lane Departure Warning system does not work. If vehicle speed is under 45 mph, there are no warnings given. If the camera cannot detect any lane markings, the system remains inactive. The driver can also disable the system temporarily by pressing a manual cancel switch. The system automatically resets when the vehicle is started again. Finally, the system doesn’t sound a warning if the turn signals are activated prior to changing lanes. I talked to a couple professional drivers about this system and they thought that all vehicles should have this system. Then more people would use turn signals properly!
According to a National Highway Transportation Safety Administration 2003 study based on 2001 data, “studies show that 55% of fatal accidents are caused by lane departure”. Infiniti’s Lane Departure Warning system will warn drivers that are not giving their full attention to driving because they may be adjusting vehicle controls, searching for addresses or concentrating on other tasks such as talking to passengers. Developed in conjunction with Valeo SA and Iteris, Inc. the Infiniti Lane Departure Warning system is the first of these types of systems to appear in passenger vehicles but they will soon be followed by even more advanced systems.
2005 Infiniti FX45
Continental Temic is another company working on advance vehicle control systems. You may be more familiar with Continental Teves, as there are many Teves ABS and disc brake system components on the market. Continental Temic is part of the Continental Automotive systems division and has already produced a radar cruise system that automatically keeps your vehicle a pre-set distance behind other traffic unless the driver overrides the control. This radar cruise system is available on the Cadillac STS and XLR. In 2005, they will offer a Lane Departure Warning system to the auto manufacturers and a Lane Changing Assistant feature
is under development that will alert the driver of danger during a lane change.
According to Continental Automotive Systems, “the intelligent car of the future will be able to measure parking spaces and park automatically, recognize traffic signs and warn about vehicles in the blind spot when changing lanes.” They will also be capable of recognizing potential accidents and operating seat belts and air bags to protect vehicle occupants better.
Do we need all these electronic systems? If we were all skilled drivers who gave 100 percent of their attention to driving every time we were behind the wheel, probably not. Are they helpful? Definitely, and with electronic controls getting smaller and more economical every day, even the most impressive systems will eventually become available on cars everybody can afford to drive.