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Auto Show:  2012 New York Auto Show

Subaru EyeSight Safety Technology: New York Auto Show

author photo by Colin Ryan April 2012
  • An extra pair of virtual eyes
  • A virtual foot on the brake
  • High-end tech comes to Main Street

Subaru has used the 2012 New York Auto Show to introduce its new active safety system EyeSight. EyeSight is an array of automotive technologies that will first appear in the 2013 Legacy midsize sedan and 2013 Outback midsize crossover SUV, both of which sport redesigns and are due out later this year.

The features in EyeSight are not particularly new, but they're usually found in much more upscale brands like Mercedes-Benz or Volvo. That they are now available in more mainstream vehicles is the real cause for celebration, even if the system has been out in Japan since 2008.

EyeSight is an apt name, because instead of using radar, it deploys two special cameras, one on either side of the upper windshield. The cameras can "see" obstacles in front and even detect when a previously stationary vehicle has moved. If the driver has not taken appropriate and timely action in either of these scenarios, the system can sound off a warning and/or apply the brakes to either slow down or make a complete stop.

Having this extra pair of eyes on board can also help in those embarrassing situations where the driver wants to exit the garage but has inadvertently put the transmission into drive rather than reverse.

All-wheel drive comes standard on all Subaru vehicles, which means they may sometimes tackle muddy or rocky trails where such objects could confuse the system. In these instances, having the brakes applied automatically is not desirable because a certain amount of momentum keeps the car from being stuck in a rut. To avoid this, EyeSight can be disabled temporarily.

The system is programmed to detect cyclists, motorcyclists and pedestrians, while also keeping watch over lane markings on the road surface. If it looks as though the car will cross lanes, an alert is given. The warning is turned off when a turn signal is activated.

Another attribute is adaptive cruise control. The system detects vehicles up ahead and keeps a safe distance by reducing engine power or hitting the brakes if needed. In stop-and-go traffic, Subaru claims EyeSight can reduce driver fatigue.

Using cameras has its advantages. Subaru says EyeSight has a wider field of detection than a similar radar-based setup. And radar sensors are normally housed in the front bumper or grille, which makes them a more costly fix should there be some damage. (No system is clever enough to stop other vehicles running into your well-equipped machine -- not yet, anyway.) The downside of EyeSight is it won't work in "certain weather conditions," says the company. Thick fog, snow and heavy rain are educated guesses here.

Subaru also issues this caveat: "EyeSight is not designed as a substitute for due care and attention to the road. The system may not react in every situation. Even with the advanced technology used, a driver with good vision and who is paying attention will always be the best safety system." Having some silicon-based assistance can't hurt, though.

To have EyeSight fitted won't cost an arm and a leg. Volvo's comparable City Safety bundle costs $2,100, and Subaru says its system will come in below that. After the 2013 Legacy and Outback, EyeSight will become available in more Subaru models.

What it means to you: Bad news for car body repairers, EyeSight good news for everyone else.

This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
Subaru EyeSight Safety Technology: New York Auto Show - Autotrader