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'Autopilot' for cars comes with caveats

I bought a new car recently that has a lot of autopilot features (No, it isn't a Tesla). One of the features keeps the car tracking in a lane, but it relies on the lines and reflective dots on the road to work, otherwise it disengages. With new cars rolling out these kind of features, will the Oregon Department of Transportation and other municipalities maintain the stripes and other lane designators better in the future?

— Dave M., Medford

Most of these new cars come with a warning that states the system that keeps the car in the lane won't work under all driving conditions, Dave.

We checked in with Gary Leaming, spokesman for ODOT, and he said there is no clear guidance to his agency from the federal government or the automobile industry about road striping.

Many of the auto manufacturers state in the new vehicle manuals that these systems won't work when it's raining or when there is no shoulder stripe or the striping is faded. They also point out the systems are for the driver's convenience, not safety, so always be prepared to take action, Dave.

Leaming said it depends on the type of road you're driving over whether the lane-assist feature will work well.

Country roads that aren't striped well are probably not a good option.

Also, checking with some manuals, it looks like temporary barriers and other road changes might throw the system off.

"As to driving on Interstate 5, the striping and reflective marking generally should be good enough," Leaming said.

So, Dave, keep your hands on the wheel even if your vehicle seems to be driving itself down the road. You still have to be an engaged driver.

— Send questions to “Since You Asked,” Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to youasked@mailtribune.com. We’re sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.