Driving Force: Subaru’s EyeSight is watching out for you

It never hurts to have an extra pair of eyes watching the road. That’s the idea behind Subaru’s new EyeSight system, an affordable package of safety technologies that uses a unique stereo camera mounted at the top of the windshield.

“This is the first system of its kind to be introduced on Subaru,” says Frederick Lane, specialist for technical training at Subaru Canada. “It incorporates seven safety features, including active safety, preventative safety, and passive safety.”

EyeSight uses two charge-coupled device (CCD) cameras, developed by Subaru, which capture an image and turn it into electrical pulses that the system can recognize. The system processes these stereo images to identify vehicles, obstacles, traffic lanes and other items. By using images, the system doesn’t just realize objects are up ahead, but can accurately identify them.

“Radar (systems) know there’s something there, but can’t figure out what it is,” Lane says. “EyeSight is like a fighter jet targeting system, figuring out how much of a threat an object is.”

It can also accurately determine how far away each object is.

“It captures images from the left and right cameras and will compare the contrast change from left to right, and figure out how many pixels are in between the distance,” Lane says. “That’s how it views obstacles and how far away they are.”

Using data from the cameras, the EyeSight system provides adaptive cruise control, which keeps a pre-set distance from vehicles ahead; lane departure and sway warning, which beeps a warning if the driver crosses a line without signalling, or swerves back and forth through inattention or fatigue; and pre-collision braking and collision mitigation, applying the brakes to either slow or stop if there’s something ahead and the driver isn’t reacting.

The system will beep a warning at a stoplight if the car in front of you moves and you don’t, in case you’re lost in thought when the light turns green. It is capable of recognizing pedestrians, bicycles and motorcycles, and will slow down or stop the vehicle if the driver doesn’t respond to potential danger.

EyeSight will also dramatically reduce the throttle’s effectiveness if the gas pedal is activated when something is in the way. This could prevent mishaps when a driver mistakenly puts the car into Drive, instead of Reverse, in front of a garage door or parking barrier.

The new system will be available on select trim lines of the 2013 Subaru Legacy and Outback.

Gaining popularity

•    The EyeSight system was launched in Japan in 2011. Within three months, it was ordered on more than half of all vehicles available with it, and now represents more than 90 per cent.

•    The system does have limitations, and is meant as assistance, not a replacement for attentive driving.

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