I'm driving a big bowl of jelly down the road. Actually it's a 2015 Chrysler 200C with LaneSense, the car maker's version of the lane-keeping technology we see more often in the Acura RLX or other luxury cars.
Sadly, it does not work like it should.
As you drive, a camera looks for lane markings and nudges you back into the center of the lane. Because a camera can pay attention to only one thing at a time, it's supposed to be a computer-aided nanny minder for drowsy or distracted drivers.
Well, it's more than a nudge. The Chrysler 200C is easily the worst implementation of lane-keeping since chariot racers used spikes on their wheels. As I drove, the 200C would slowly veer a little back into the lane...and then keep right on veering more and more. The bowl of jelly would congeal, slide, and push the force of the car to the side.
There's a setting in the touchscreen that's supposed to help. You can adjust the LaneSense sensitivity to Low, Medium, or High. I tried all three settings, and none of them made any difference--the nudging is far too abrupt. When I took my hands off the wheel for a moment, the nudge was enough to make the car swerve like a computer-controlled drunk driver.
The road markings were clear and bright, so the problem is not that the 200C was having trouble seeing the lane. During segments of the road when the markings were still clear but there wasn't a double-yellow line, LaneSense turned itself off completely. Doesn't make sense, right?
Chrysler is playing catch-up with companies like Acura, Infiniti, Mercedes-Benz, and Infiniti that have figured out how to make lane-keeping work reliably. Earlier Infinitis nudged you like the Chrysler 200C does, but in the 2014 Infiniti Q50, the car keeps adjusting the steering on the fly as you drive and keeps you centered in the lane for a mile or two, even if you take your hands off the wheel.
The Chrysler 200C costs $25,995, but you have to pay $1295 the safety package that includes LaneSense, so the total price is $27,290. That's much cheaper than even the base price of an Acura RLX at $48,450. And it's cheaper still than a mid-sized, fully-loaded sedan from Mercedes, Audi, or Infiniti. None of the price savings are worth it. If you're buying the Chrysler 200C to take advantage of the new tech--sorry, this lane is closed.