Car Tech Spotlight: EyeSight in the 2013 Subaru Outback
We put the suite of driver-assist systems to the test in a variety of real situations.
Advanced automotive technology typically debuts on high-end cars and then slowly trickles down to more modestly priced vehicles. That’s the pattern we’re seeing with active safety “driver-assist” systems that warn of hazards that can cause an accident, or even take over a car’s braking or steering to prevent a collision.
But an advent of driver-assist systems in sub-$40,000 vehicles was all over the 2012 LA Auto Show. Mazda unveiled its 2014 Mazda6 sedan, which have a whole slew of driver-assist systems when it debuts in 2013, and Ford’s all-new 2013 Fusion offers more driver-assist features than some cars costing twice as much -- and too many to list here.
Then there's the 2013 Subaru Outback 3.6R Limited that I recently tested. It included Subaru’s new EyeSight system, which uses dual cameras flanking the rearview mirror to keep an eye on the road ahead -- even when the driver doesn’t -- and sophisticated software to process images from the cameras.
While it can be difficult, if not dangerous, to test driver-assist features outside of a test track, I put the system through its paces, within reason.
EyeSight includes seven features, including common ones such as adaptive cruise control and lane-departure warning. One is called Lead Vehicle Start Alert and isn't as much a safety feature as it is useful for when you’re at a traffic light or stop sign and fail to notice that the car in front has moved -- and you have not. The system sounds an alert and flashes a warning in the instrument panel that reads, “Vehicle Ahead Has Moved.” You can see it in action in the video below.
Another feature is called lane-sway warning, and it works in conjunction with lane-departure warning. According to Subaru, it’s designed to detect when a vehicle is swaying “within its lane from one side to the other at a frequency that’s symptomatic of the driver becoming drowsy, with a danger of falling asleep behind the wheel.” It gives the same audible warning as LDW but a different visual warning. I tested the system as well and as safely as possible on a stretch of interstate highway with few cars, swaying from side to side within my lane. But as you can see in the video below, I never received a warning, although I did get lane-departure warning when pulled off at an exit.
EyeSight’s Pre-Collision Throttle Management sounds a warning to prevent a frontal collision when, for example, the driver accelerates forward while thinking he is in reverse. It will also dial back the throttle to decrease damage should you ignore the warning and plow ahead (Toyota is working on a similar feature). I tried it out in my driveway, first aiming at my garage door and then at my prized 1996 Impala SS. But after trying it a few times I never got a warning -- and I wasn’t going to risk hitting either one by getting any closer.
Finally, I tried what is probably one of EyeSight’s most important features, the Pre-Collision Braking System. (Another feature called Pre-Collision Braking Assist, which has been around for a while on other vehicles, applies full brake pressure when it detects the driver is stopping in an emergency.) I tested Pre-Collision Braking by trailing my other vehicle, a 2008 Honda CR-V, which my wife was driving ahead of me.
I received the warning in the instrument panel from the system only once, even though I came really close to the car’s rear end on several occasions while it was moving and stopped. I wasn’t going to rear-end the CR-V to find out if the system would automatically apply the brakes.
While driver-assist systems are creeping into lower-priced cars, the barrier to entry is still high. On the Subaru Outback I tested, for example, it was part of the "Moonroof + Navigation System + EyeSight System" option package, which costs $3,940 and includes a navigation system, a 9-speaker/440-watt Harman/Kardon audio system, Bluetooth for hands-free phone and music streaming and more. The full suite of driver-assist systems on the 2013 Ford Fusion costs about the same.
Still, even though I couldn't trigger all the Subaru systems during my tests, the price could be a lot less expensive than a real fender-bender.
"That’s the pattern we’re seeing with active safety “driver-assist” systems that warn of hazards that can cause an accident, or even take over a car’s braking or steering to prevent a collision."
First of all, there are no ACCIDENTS. Someone is ALWAYS at fault.
Secondly, apparently we as a society have accepted the fact that most people can't (or won't) drive and have now decided to reduce the "vehicle operator's" involvement as much as possible using electronic nannies.
I guess this is easier than actually testing people's driving abilities and removing the inattentive, distracted and incompetent from our roads.
Perhaps it's simply a matter of the revenue generated by keeping idiots on the road.
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