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Auto Show:  2012 New York Auto Show

Subaru EyeSight Safety Technology Preview: New York Auto Show

author photo by Colin Ryan March 2012
  • EyeSight provides an extra pair of virtual eyes
  • It can warn drivers or actually apply the brakes
  • High-end tech comes to more affordable vehicles

Subaru will use the 2012 New York auto show to officially introduce its new active safety system: EyeSight. It's 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 in dealerships later this year.

The features in EyeSight are not particularly new (in fact the system has been available in Japan since 2008), but they're usually only available from more upscale brands like Mercedes-Benz and Volvo. That you can now get them in more affordable mainstream vehicles is the real cause for celebration.

EyeSight is an apt name, because instead of using radar it deploys two special cameras, one on either side of the upper windshield. They can "see" obstacles in front and even detect when a previously stationary vehicle has moved into your lane. If the driver has not taken the appropriate and timely action in either of these scenarios, the system can sound 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 a driver wants to back out of a garage, but inadvertently put the transmission in Drive rather than Reverse; no more plowing into the workbench while looking over your shoulder.

Most Subaru vehicles come with all-wheel drive as standard, which means they might tackle muddy or rocky trails that 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 accommodate these situations, 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, it alerts the driver. The warning is turned off when a turn signal is activated.

Another feature 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 can cost more to fix after an accident (no system is clever enough to stop other vehicles running into your well-equipped machine - not yet, anyway). The downside to using cameras is that Subau says EyeSight won't work in "certain weather conditions." We would guess that thick fog, snow and heavy rain could be problems.

Subaru also issues a 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 computer-based backup 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 collision repair shops, 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 Preview: New York Auto Show - Autotrader