EyeSight Falls Asleep on the Job

Posted on
Scott McCracken
Image looking through the windshield towards a pair of EyeSight cameras flanking the rearview mirror.

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.

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 sonar 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.

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 sonar, 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 sonar-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 departure 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 car[2].

  1. "Subaru EyeSight System Review" from Car And Driver. ↩︎

  2. "Subaru's Official Press Release" on AutoBlog.com. ↩︎

Lawsuits Regarding This Problem

Lawsuits about this problem have already been filed in court. Many times these are class-action suits that look to cover a group of owners in a particular area. Click on the lawsuit for more information and to see if you're eligible to receive any potential settlements.

  • Sampson, et al., v. Subaru of America, Inc., et al.

    1. Case Filed

      A Subaru class action lawsuit includes 2013-2021 vehicles equipped with automatic emergency braking (AEB), which includes pre-collision braking and reverse automatic braking. Additionally, the lawsuit includes 2013-2021 Subaru vehicles equipped with lane keep assist (LKA).

    Class Vehicles
    • 2013-2021 vehicles equipped with AEB or LKA
    New Jersey

Generations Where This Problem Has Been Reported

This problem has popped up in the following Subaru generations.

Most years within a generation share the same parts and manufacturing process. You can also expect them to share the same problems. So while it may not be a problem in every year yet, it's worth looking out for.

Further Reading

A timeline of stories related to this problem. We try to boil these stories down to the most important bits so you can quickly see where things stand. Interested in getting these stories in an email? Signup for free email alerts for your vehicle over at CarComplaints.com.

OK, Now What?

Maybe you've experienced this problem. Maybe you're concerned you will soon. Whatever the reason, here's a handful of things you can do to make sure it gets the attention it deserves.

  1. File Your Complaint

    CarComplaints.com is a free site dedicated to uncovering problem trends and informing owners about potential issues with their cars. Major class action law firms use this data when researching cases.

    Add a Complaint
  2. Notify CAS

    The Center for Auto Safety (CAS) is a pro-consumer organization that researches auto safety issues & often compels the US government to do the right thing through lobbying & lawsuits.

    Notify The CAS
  3. Report a Safety Concern

    The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is the US agency with the authority to conduct vehicle defect investigations & force recalls. Their focus is on safety-related issues.

    Report to NHTSA