By Jonathan Yarkony
Photos courtesy Subaru

Mississauga, ON – Subaru is launching their new EyeSight Driver Assist System in North America on the 2013 Outback and Legacy models. The EyeSight system is an excellent complement to Subaru’s already stellar reputation for safety, with all of its models earning IIHS Top Safety Picks and the 2013 Outback and Legacy earning Five Star ratings in NHTSA testing.

However, EyeSight takes safety one step further, aiming to prevent collisions and assist the driver in a variety of driving situations. Subaru described it as part of their Safety Triad (no relation to the Hong Kong organized crime syndicates also known as ‘Triads’). Subaru’s Safety Triad consists of Passive Safety (that ring-shaped reinforcement frame that serves it so well in crash worthiness), Active Safety (Symmetrical AWD and stability control systems working with ABS), and now Preventive Safety (EyeSight), all aimed at maintaining a leadership position in vehicle safety.

Aside from Adaptive Cruise Control, EyeSight includes Pre-Collision Braking and Collision Mitigation and Lane Departure Warning and Sway Warning.

Unlike similar systems in a variety of luxury cars, which use radar or laser, Suabru’s EyeSight uses two CCD cameras (Charged Couple Device, which converts images to electrical signals) mounted inside the front windshield to either side of the rear-view mirror. Subaru hopes that this will help it avoid costly repairs from more common fender benders, as with bumper-mounted radar systems.

Subaru EyeSight
Subaru EyeSight
Subaru EyeSight
Click image to enlarge

Anyhow, the two CCD cameras capture the image, and the EyeSight processor analyzes the stereo images using triangulation programs to identify objects like vehicles, people, and even lane markings. EyeSight classifies detected shapes as Rear and Sides of vehicles and disregards Sides for distance calculations.

The system is wired into the vehicles safety systems like ABS and stability control, so if it picks up an obstacle like a car or pedestrian and the driver does not begin braking, EyeSight Pre-Collision mode will engage.

Eyesight Pre-Collision will start with a warning beep, then escalate to a flashing light in the gauge cluster before applying any independent braking. If the driver takes no action, the Subaru will apply weak braking first, with beeping, then hard braking with a constant beep. The system is not guaranteed to prevent collision, but will reduce impact speed and often will bring the car to a complete stop before contact with the car or pedestrian at risk.

If a driver is not completely brain dead and reacts to the flashing lights and beeping warnings, Pre-Collision Mitigation will increase or modulate braking pressure to prevent collision or reduce speed as much as possible before impact when travelling at speeds above 30 km/h.

However, the system intervention will be cancelled by steering, application of throttle, nor will it intervene if: the VDC (stability control) is switched off; the vehicle in front is offset (as it would be when beginning a passing maneuver on a vehicle in front); there is low visibility (fog, heavy snow); if it has already been triggered three times in a short time period strikes. The system also takes three seconds to reset after an intervention.

Subaru was confident enough in the system to let us journalists have a go at a padded picture of a car, and despite the overwhelming instinct to get on the brakes with the approaching obstacle (not to mention the frantic beeping), I managed to let the car intervene from a speed around 30 km/h and bring the car safely to a stop with a metre or more to spare. The system will then hold the car in place until throttle is applied. If, however, the door is opened, the car will go into Park mode, in case the collision was not averted and the driver is unable to operate the vehicle.

It should also be noted that EyeSight is calibrated to recognize human form, as well as vehicles like usual buses, cars, trucks, and bikes. Children or animals shorter than one metre are difficult for the system to detect. Other limitations are range of vision, and the time it takes to determine what an “object” is. Any objects entering from the side, like a crossing pedestrian, for example, may not be recognized in time for the system to intervene and brake, and distance to bicycles and motorcycles are mapped to the rider, not the rear tire.

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