Auto manufacturers are always creating new ways to keep the driver and passengers safe. One of the newer technologies to emerge is the Lane Departure Warning System. This system typically uses a forward facing camera that can identify the lane lines on the road as you are driving. If the computer notices you moving to one side without a turn signal, it will alert the driver with a light, sound, vibration, or combination of the three.
Auto makers have taken this safety system one step further with Lane Keeping Assist. Lane Keeping Assist has the same functions as Lane Departure, however, if the system doesn't see the driver take action, it can manipulate the steering to keep the car within the lane. It may seem scary that the computer can change the direction of the vehicle, but it can always be overridden by the driver.
What the lane departure warning light means
As you drive along, the camera is constantly watching for lines on the road. If you start drifting to one side without an active turn signal, the computer can detect this movement through the camera and will provide a warning. At the very least, the light on the dashboard will illuminate and will usually show the side you are drifting to. Many Lane Keeping Assist systems also have additional cues such as vibrations in the steering wheel or a chime sound. Make sure you understand how your particular system works so you know what cues to look out for. Once you have corrected your steering and are centered in the lane again, the light should turn off.
As mentioned earlier, some systems are able to take action and move the car automatically. The Lane Keeping Assist will only activate if the computer doesn’t see the driver react to the departure warning, and if they continue to drift out of the lane. Depending on the system, the computer can apply the brakes on one side of the car or manipulate the steering slightly to re-center the vehicle. In either case, the driver is able to override those actions if they so choose. Both the Lane Departure Warning and Lane Keeping Assist systems will be disabled if the driver has a turn signal activated.
Is it safe to drive with the lane departure warning sign on?
Hopefully this light remains unlit for most of your journeys. If you notice the light illuminate, be sure to slowly adjust your position back to the center of the lane. Do not overcorrect or you’ll likely end up in an even worse situation.
These systems are there assist you, but you should never rely on them 100%. Anything that prevents the camera from clearly seeing road lines will also prevent the system from working. This includes snow or leaves on the ground, unmarked roads, or even roads that have old, faded lane markers. In these situations, the computer will not able to warn you of any drifting in the lane. If this light keeps coming on and you’ve been driving for a while, take it as a sign to pull over and take a break for a while. Driving for extended hours can be fatiguing so taking that 10 minute break to get some coffee or stretch your legs will likely save you.
If your lane departure system doesn’t appear to be working properly, our certified technicians are always available to help you diagnose any issues.
This article originally appeared on YourMechanic.com as What Does the Lane Departure Warning Light Mean? and was authored by Spencer Cates.