EyeSight Falls Asleep on the Job

The commercial says 'it's like having an extra set of eyes on the road.' Well sleepy, tired, and sometimes closed eyes maybe.

EyeSight is driver assist technology that uses a stereoscopic, two-camera system to monitor the road ahead. Using information gathered from the cameras, EyeSight adds popular features to cars like adaptive cruise control, pre-collision automatic braking, collision warning and lane-departure alerts.

In simpler terms, it’s a computer that is supposed to make driving safer and – to be fair – in most cases it does. It was first offered in the 2013 Legacy and Outback in their Limited trim levels.

The System That Watches The Road (Sometimes)

A defective switch that activates brake lights was shutting down the driver assist system in thousands of cars. Subaru acknowledged the issue in June 2015 and issued a recall for 72,000 vehicles. The problem was discovered internally while developing newer versions of EyeSight.

Subaru said the defect could cause a delay in informing drivers that the EyeSight assist functions were no longer working. Since Subaru’s aren’t autonomous cars it’s a bad idea to depend on that technology to keep you safe, but it’s helpful to know if it’s working just in case. Ignorance isn’t bliss when a pickup truck with a busted tail light stops short in front of you.

Fingers Crossed

Owners said that even with the system on (or at least they think it was on), it wasn’t performing as advertised.

“The adaptive cruise has not recognized stopped vehicles, and did not slow the vehicle down thus potentially contributing to a crash and injury. The car has been evaluated multiple times for this by the dealer and has not found a problem. The dysfunction continues; there were 4 incidents today where there was failure of the adaptive cruise control system to initiate any safety maneuvers to avoid a crash.” – 2014 Forester Owner

Weather Concerns

EyeSight differs from other automaker’s safety system because of how it uses cameras over sonor or radar to monitor the road. This has a lot of advantages and one key disadvantage — visibility.

"You know that feeling when you’re stuck behind an 18-wheeler kicking up spray on a rainy highway? That whole Oh no, I can’t see anything feeling? Well, EyeSight is going to have the same problems."

At its core, EyeSight is just two cameras (eyes) beaming information to a central processor (brain) and using quick analysis (synopsis) to evaluate safety. I mean they called it “Eye Sight” for goodness sake. So if you can’t see — when there’s fog, heavy rain, bright direct sun, or dust — EyeSight probably can’t see either.

“[EyeSight] is dangerously affected by bright sunlight and fail to function without warning.” – 2014 Forester owner

Some say this problem was somewhat solved when Subaru switched their cameras to color starting in 2015. The color cameras can pick up safety warnings like brake lights.

Road Spray on the Highway
If you can’t see, chances are neither can EyeSight

Other Common Complaints about EyeSight

  • EyeSight is only available in higher, more expensive trim levels. Because only rich people like safety?
  • Some say if you buy EyeSight it gets bundled with Subaru’s awful built-in navigation, but we’re still confirming that.
  • Since EyeSight relies on cameras instead of radar or sonor, it is limited to what it can do on foggy days, dust storms or those scary situations when you’re behind an 18-wheeler on the highway in a rain storm.

First Generation Complaints (2013)

  • A limited operating range when compared to radar and sonor-based systems in other brands. The viewing distance was increased by 40%1 for the 2nd generation with a wider viewing angle.
  • The cameras only see the world in black-and-white. That means the system could only react to pre-collision braking situations under 20mph and pre-collision brake assist under 31mph.
  • The pre-collision braking won’t work while going in reverse.
  • The cameras are bulky and can reduce visibility.

Second Generation Complaints (2014+)

  • “Active Lane Keep” lane depature system is overly sensitive. Especially when on country roads or streets where the line crews didn’t do a great job painting (so all of them).
  • Want to turn lane assist off? Prepare yourself to stare at a bright yellow dash warning light for ALL OF ETERNITY. Or, at least until you turn it back on.
  • The cameras are still pretty darn bulky. Can we just get a couple GoPro’s up in here?

The newest generation of EyeSight has some nice improvements. The cameras are 15% smaller and now see in color which means they can detect things like brake lights. The new range is 110 meters with a 35-degree field of view and auto-braking thresholds were increased by 12mph. A new “Rear Cross Traffic Alert” system can detect vehicles up to 23 feet behind the car2.

  1. Subaru EyeSight System Review” from Car And Driver. 

  2. Subaru’s Official Press Release” on AutoBlog.com. 

Story Timeline

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