What is Lane-Keep Assist?

If you’re in the market for a new vehicle of any type, you’ve probably seen lane-keeping or lane-keep assist as a feature. They’re the same thing, but some automakers give it a different title. You’re probably wondering what it is, if you need it, and how it works. So what is the lane-keep assist safety feature?

What does Lane-Keep Assist do?

The Cadillac Escalade cruises near a coast. What is lane keeping assist?
Cadillac Escalade | Cadillac Media

To put it in the simplest terms, it keeps you in your lane while driving. However, there can be a lot more to it than that. Lane-Keep Assist (LKA) can sometimes interrupt your driving by moving you back into a lane by itself. The primary purpose of the safety feature is to prevent drivers from drifting into another lane accidentally. Sometimes, it’ll pull the vehicle right back into the correct lane by itself. This can be jarring for those who aren’t expecting it to happen.

Additionally, there is usually an audible notification that goes off as well. Some sort of chime or noise will kick in to alert drivers of their position in the road. Partially meant to alert the driver that the vehicle might move on its own, and partly to wake up a sleeping driver since that could be the reason they’ve drifted into another lane. Lastly, some models use a vibrating effect for the same purpose. If your steering wheel suddenly vibrates while drifting to the side on the highway, Lane-Keeping Assist could be the reason.

Does Lane-Keeping Assist always work?

A van drives on a snow-covered road | Verónica Lacasa/Europa Press via Getty Images

Lane-Keep Assist is not effective 100 percent of the time. The system uses the lines on the road to monitor which lane the driver is in, then whether they move into another lane or not. If the lines aren’t visible for some reason, Lane-Keep Assist won’t do anything. This includes when the lines are covered by snow or dirt. It’s safe to assume that if you’re having trouble seeing the lines on the road, this safety feature is not working as intended.

Some versions of the feature can help prevent drivers from accidentally going off-road. Many highways use rumble strips on the side of the road to wake sleepy drivers who may be going too far toward the side of the road. However, those aren’t everywhere and can’t always be depended on. A vibration or chime should do the trick if your vehicle is equipped with Lane-Keeping Assist. Most LKA systems will automatically get you back into the right lane if you still make it onto or past the rumble strip.

Tips for using Lane-Keep Assist

Winter driving in Cleveland, lane-keeping assist is an excellent safety feature.
Winter driving in Cleveland, Ohio | Angelo Merendino/Corbis via Getty Images

According to My Car Does What, owners can do a few things to ensure LKA is at its best. Firstly, snow, leaves, fog, dirt, or even debris can cause the system to stop working. If any obstruction is blocking the lines in the road, assume it won’t keep you in your lane.

Next, turning your wheel at all will override the feature instantly. In some cases, you’ll forget to put a turn signal on to switch lanes. Lane-Keep Assist may take over in this scenario and not allow you to drift into the other lane. However, simply turning the wheel into the next lane should instantly override the feature and enable drivers to keep going where they need.

Toyota’s inflatable steering wheel is the next LKA innovation

Dashboard and front seats in 2022 Toyota Corolla Cross
2022 Toyota Corolla Cross | Toyota

A feature coming to some Toyota models could be the next step in improving Lane-Keep Assist. The automaker recently filed a patent for an inflatable steering wheel. No, it is not to be used as a flotation device inside your vehicle. Instead, it’s an inflated wheel that deflates on the side to which you’re drifting as an LKA function. Toyota believes this is less disruptive than the vehicle taking over driving or a vibrating steering wheel. Plus, drivers holding the steering wheel will instantly feel the difference. Not to mention, Toyota says the standard inflated steering wheel will provide drivers with a better grip.

Do you need Lane-Keep Assist?

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Lane-Keep Assist has quickly become one of most vehicles’ most popular safety features. It’s integral for keeping drivers and passengers safe. LKA can save lives, whether drivers are sleepy and drifting dangerously into another lane without knowing or just not paying attention (on their phone). Make sure to stay in your lane all the time with Lane-Keep Assist.

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