More and more cars are integrating driver assistance features that help do things like avoid collisions, keep a safe distance from other vehicles, or even parallel park. There are also Lane Departure Warning systems that use onboard cameras to keep the driver from drifting out of their lane. But what happens if the roadside markings are worn away, or covered with snow or mud? Norwegian research organization SINTEF has come up with a solution called WayPilot – a system which uses sensors embedded in the asphalt and a shaking steering wheel to alert drivers before they stray too far off course.

Development on WayPilot started back in 2004, when a company of the same name was working on a system to warn drivers when their car was unintentionally leaving a marked lane. SINTEF joined the project in 2006, further developing WayPilot by using a vehicle simulator to evaluate the interaction between system and driver.

Here’s how it works. Radio transponders in robust plastic casings are buried under the top asphalt layer of the road. These communicate with corresponding devices in the base of a test car's door openings. When the car’s transponders get too close to those in the road, the driver is alerted to the situation. Initially a smartphone-delivered warning was considered, but test subjects found that a vibrating steering wheel was much more effective.

The question that arises, perhaps, is whether WayPilot is any better than good old-fashioned rumble strips. Presumably, the RF signals could reach through snow and ice that might cover ordinary rumble strips. Also, drivers could be warned as they’re still approaching the edge of their lane, as opposed to only once they’re actually going over the line.

Norway’s Public Roads Administration has already installed the transponders on a segment of test road. Now, SINTEF hopes it can be installed on a longer stretch of highway for a more effective trial.