Look, I get it. People don’t pay attention when driving, they veer from their path and they crash, so support systems exist to read the road ahead. They inspect upcoming white lines and road edges and give warnings, gentle pushes, wheel vibrations or even bigger steering inputs if it looks like the driver is leaving their lane. Commendable.
And also often infuriating. The system that can tell the difference between a distracted driver veering from their lane because they’re trying to change the temperature via a touchscreen and a driver who is concentrating and picking an efficient line while using a little more of the road doesn’t yet exist. So drive a new car for a while and you will discover these systems are needlessly pushing back at you all the time.
If you ask a manufacturer about this, you will be told something like: “Don’t blame us, mate, it’s all this Euro NCAP and legislation.” Which is sort of true, except when it isn’t.
There are three parts to lane support systems: lane departure warning, lane-keeping assistance (automatic steering correction) and emergency lane-keeping (a more strenuous automatic steering correction for if you’re going to leave the road or veer into an oncoming car). But manufacturers tend to wrap them all under one system, with one name, in a car. Turn one of them on or off and you turn all of them on or off.
Lane support systems aren’t mandatory, although they will be on new cars from 2022. Just as significant, though, is that they form part of the star rating awarded to a car by Euro NCAP, the European car safety rating agency.
And even if the system isn’t mandatory, you can’t discount the clout of Euro NCAP, whose ratings sometimes dictate whether or not a car is bought. Just one example: when Transport for London buys cars and vans, it “endeavours to choose vehicles with an NCAP at the optimum rating”.