Mt. Vernon Register-News

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June 5, 2013

New Acura RLX can steer, brake, accelerate on its own

(Continued)

The big breakthrough is that it essentially drives itself, in a limited fashion.

It starts with a particularly refined version of adaptive cruise control, which uses radar to keep your car a set distance from the car in front of you. You'll automatically speed up, slow down and even come to a complete stop if necessary, all without driver input.

That's cool, but it's hardly revolutionary.

Acura's "Lane Keeping Assist System" is more innovative. It uses a camera to see the stripes in the road and will gently nudge the steering wheel left and right to keep your car centered in the lane.

If you're adventurous, you can take your hands off the wheel and let the car steer itself, even around gentle curves, for up to 15 seconds or so. If it senses you're not providing any steering input after that, the system will shut itself down as a safety measure.

As long as the road is clearly striped and you keep your hands very gently resting on the steering wheel, though, the car can essentially drive itself indefinitely. It's remarkable.

In fact, it's the most serene experience I've ever had driving in stop-and-go, rush-hour traffic. Turn on the RLX's adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping system, and you can basically relax while the car does the work — starting and stopping with traffic and keeping itself in the lane.

Even for someone who loves to drive, it's nice having the option not to do so occasionally.

Derek Price is an automotive columnist for CNHI News Service. Contact him at carcolumn@gmail.com.

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