Henry Ford

Lane Keeping SystemsIn 1908, Henry Ford changed the world we live in by using the latest technology to design and produce the Model T Ford. Since then technology in cars has gained momentum at an ever increasing pace. Lane Keeping Systems are an example of this.

Not so long ago, the car was a mechanical machine, the carburettor mechanically supplied fuel to the engine, and rearview mirrors had that little mechanical “flip” switch on the underside that allowed you to dim the mirror slightly to avoid the glare from cars or the sun. Remember when looking over your shoulder to make sure there were no other cars were in your blindspot before changing lanes, I still do this out of habit and for safety, maybe I should trust the technology more. But perhaps our children won’t look over their shoulders as much.

Those days are and will change fast, hence automatic dimming rear view mirrors on most cars produced. I also don’t think there is a car today that doesn’t have electronic fuel injection.

Driverless Input

With self driving cars on the horizon, the question begged asking is what about safety? Does technology make road use safer and what are the things we need to think about? At what point do we cross the chasm? To where only the laggards are left and most cars on todays roads have enough technology that we can trust the automatic systems being used. Because, imagine you are the driver of a car with the latest and greatest tech of the time. The guy driving next to you however, has an awesome 1966 Ford Mustang Fastback. Your car might be able to avoid him, but that V8 muscle car is going to need a sharp driver to avoid you. Perhaps the trust in cars with tech is not the tech in those cars but the lack of tech in other cars on the road around you that will make it “safe” or “unsafe” as we cross the chasm.

Lane Departure Warning systems

One particular feature I am fascinated by is the Lane Keeping System (LKS), this system shouldn’t be confused with the Lane Departure Warning (LDW) system. The LDW is primarily a system that warns the driver should the car depart it’s lane without activating the turn signal. Many cars now have the LDW built in. Like BMW lane_departure_warning dashBMW for instance, the steering on the older model 6 series vibrates if the driver unintentionally leaves the lane. This LDW system works using a camera mounted behind the rear view mirror. It captures the lane markings up to 50m ahead of the car.


Lane Keeping Systems

The Lane Keeping System takes it one step further by detecting unintentional lane departures and then applying physical input to the steering. This keeps the car inside the lane. Note though that there is an emphasis on “unintentional” lane departure. This small but significant feature has a lot of technology behind it.

Let’s take one of the cars that is at the moment one of my favourites. This car looks like a little Aston Martin from the front, sporty and aggressive, yet sleek and stylish. The Ford Fiesta and Ford Fusion.

The lane keeping system in the Ford take Lane Departure Warning to another level. It sill works using a camera behind the rear view mirror to detect the lane markings. The camera sends signals to the cars computer about where the car is relative to the lane markings. Not only does it send signals about the cars position. It also sends signals about how the driver is using the steering wheel. Just amazing.

There are 2 modes, one is the LDW system and only warns the driver through dashboard warnings and steering vibrations. Ford has called this “alert-mode”. The second and more exciting mode though is “aid-mode” which puts the full Lane Keeping System technology to work.

There are loads of settings one can fiddle with from steering vibration intensity to dashboard alerts.

This video explains the system in more detail:



While I think we are a little way off self driving cars, I can’t wait to see Lane Keeping Systems as standard technology in every car. Just like electronic fuel injection is today taken for granted, so should Lane Keeping Systems.