My first auto-steering car experience

Discussion in 'The off ramp' started by chittychittybangbang, Dec 2, 2016.

  1. chittychittybangbang

    chittychittybangbang Administrator

    May 23, 2007
    2006 Jetta TDI
    I recently drove an Acura TLX with the LKAS (Lane Keeping Assist System). This uses a small camera behind the rear view mirror to look at the lanes and steers the car using the electronic power steering. It's not steer-by-wire (only Infiniti has one of these so far), just the power steering rack uses an electric motor instead of hydraulic power assist. Long story short, don't trust it. It's basically a gimmick that's bundled with other options like the upgraded sound system and navigation (you have to buy them all as a pack).

    How to turn it on, and conditions:
    You turn it on by turning on the cruise control (cruse doesn't have to be set or "active"), then press the LKAS button (the cluster shows dotted lane markers). Once the system acquires the lanes, the instrument cluster shows solid lane markers on the display, and it begins to steer the car. The car must be over 49 mph and the wipers have to be off. It also cannot make sharp turns. If it's combined with the radar cruise control, the car will also speed up and slow down with traffic (my car didn't have it so I don't know the lower limit but I don't think it's full stop).

    How well does it work:
    On a perfectly straight and level road, I found that it would frequently wander 6"+ left and right from the center. This doesn't sound like a lot, but if you're used to driving exactly in the center of the lane, it is annoying and can put you close to the edge of the lane. If it was wandering and the road made a shallow turn, it would sometimes result in the car bouncing from one edge of the lane to the other as it over-corrected. If you pass an area where the lane markers are faded, like an off ramp, it may wander over the lane or shut off.

    Safety and glitches:
    The car requires the driver to slightly wiggle the steering wheel every 15 seconds or it disengages and beeps. If it loses the road it disengages and beeps. At no time during my testing did it give enough torque to the steering wheel that I couldn't manually turn the wheel and disengage it (after which it beeped). If it overcorrects in a sharp turn and you're now heading way outside your lane, it beeps and disengages....basically it's saying "oops I messed up, you fix this, byeeeee"'s still up to the driver to steer the car back onto the road.

    During my tests, I was driving into the sun and the asphalt sealant reflected a lot of light and the system wouldn't engage. I'm guessing it couldn't tell the difference between the shiny wiggly repairs and the lanes. I mentioned the wandering issue earlier. If the car next to you is going over the lane marker (I don't know why people go so far over the lanes on the highway) this could result in contact since it can't see other cars, just lanes. The camera obviously can't see through the wipers or rain. It cannot see and avoid cars, people, or road hazards.

    So why would you ever use it:
    Since it can only be activated at highway speeds, it's a driver aid and not a very good one, IMHO. It's useful if you have a bad shoulder and need to rest one arm and steer with only one arm. Or if you need to change from regular glasses to sunglasses and have to divert your attention from the road for a second. Moving many functions from physical buttons to a touchscreen is a major distraction and just changing the radio station requires you to take your eyes off the road :mad: . From what I've heard, the Tesla autopilot is the only one with any level of competency approaching a human driver, and even those have plenty of problems where it is not approaching safe autonomous driving. We're still pretty far out.

    The future and why do we want it?
    I like driving but humans make big driving mistakes because very few people have good car control and never make errors in judgement. This results in many deaths (about 30,000/year in the US alone) , injuries, and raises the price and complexity of cars. If we could make cars that almost never crash, maybe they could be made lighter, cheaper, and with better fuel economy. Distracted drivers obviously don't care about driving, your safety, or the lives of the people in their car, and self-driving cars would remove a massive hazard from our roads. Long commutes could turn into productive time or naps. Cars could draft closely and gain further mpg. Better traffic patterns, less accidents, and drafting would further reduce traffic.

    Before we see more benefits from autonomous cars, we may also need massive infrastructure updates like better highways and roads, widespread adoption, perhaps guidance systems built into the highway? With political gridlock, there's little chance of spending on any of these extras, considering the poor condition of most highways and the lack of maintenance on critical infrastructure.
    mu2bdriver likes this.
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  2. Ol'Rattler

    Ol'Rattler Well-Known Member

    Apr 24, 2011
    06 TDI Jetta
    Marysvile, WA.
    Yup, artificial intelligence is not far enough along to make lane control viable yet. However I'm a big fan of adaptive cruise. A lot fewer logic laws need to be computed by the computer, and I think that it could be made bullet proof even with the tech we have right now.

    Just guessing, but I suspect there are a lot more rear end collisions than accidents caused by lane violations. You are correct, lane control is a pretty lame feature.
    Last edited: Dec 11, 2016

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