Subaru adds 'EyeSight' for safer driving
The Darth Vader pair of eyes are the visual clue that this car is something special.
They sit either side of the rear-vision mirror inside the windscreen, and they operate in tandem as a stereo safety device, constantly scanning the road ahead for potential hazards.
If they spot something, they alert the driver.
If the driver doesn't respond and it becomes obvious that unless something happens the vehicle will hit an object, they will order the car to brake.
The eyes are part of Subaru's EyeSight driver assist system which is now a standard feature on all six-cylinder Model Year 2013 Legacy, Legacy GT and Outback models sold in New Zealand.
There are a couple of really important points about the introduction of this system.
First, it marks the arrival of such technology into the more mainstream vehicles rather than the top-end luxury product that has featured it thus far.
Granted, all the EyeSight models retail for just under $70,000 which is still expensive, but you can guarantee it won't be long before the technology filters down to the other less expensive Subaru products.
Second, up until now almost all such technology has been radar-based which detects rather than recognises objects ahead - but EyeSight's stereo cameras can actually recognise objects and driving circumstances, and therefore the system has a greater ability to behave in a more human-like manner.
It even has the ability to tell you off.
Just like some sort of electronic back-seat driver the EyeSight will sound more "beep-beep!" warnings than a Road Runner television cartoon as it keeps a constant check on everything from whether the Subaru is keeping safely within the road lanes, to whether you're too close to the vehicle in front, to whether you are being so inattentive that you fail to notice that stationary traffic in front of you has started to move away.
And - as one journalist discovered at a media day in Auckland - EyeSight will also give up on you as its way of teaching you a lesson for being stupid.
We were trying out a pre-collision braking system, which automatically brakes the Subaru to either avoid or reduce the severity of an impact.
We had to drive up to a car-shaped barrier in the carpark at various speeds of up to 30kmh and let the EyeSight bring the car to an abrupt halt just short of the object while telling us off in its inimitable beep-beep style.
One journo did it three times - but on the fourth attempt his Subaru crashed straight through the barrier.
Seems this is an EyeSight way of telling the person behind the wheel to focus more on the job of driving.
To re-activate the system you have to turn the car off then on again.
EyeSight uses its eyes and all the in-car technologies it is connected to, to perform seven key functions:
Pre-collision braking: It'll apply the brakes when a vehicle ahead is detected slowing or stopping suddenly, and the driver has failed to hit the brake pedal accordingly. It measures time and distance, so can kick into action at vehicle speeds of up to 160kmh - although obviously at that speed it'll work its hardest to reduce speed, but not to avoid impact.
Pre-collision brake assist: If the system determines that a collision is highly likely and that the driver is not braking hard enough, the system will jump on the brakes itself, generating up to 1G deceleration to help reduce impact or damage.
Pre-collision throttle management: Ever looked right when turning left out of an intersection, then run into a vehicle that has stopped immediately in front of you?
With this system, if a driver accidentally applies full throttle close to a barrier or a large object right in front of the car - such as a car park wall or a vehicle immediately ahead at close range - EyeSight inhibits the throttle opening, helping minimise or potentially avoid impact.
It also assists in helping to reduce impact in situations when Drive is accidentally selected instead of Reverse.
Adaptive cruise control: This is designed to maintain a safe distance from the vehicle in front irrespective of the varying speed of that vehicle.
It will operate at speeds of between 40kmh and 145kmh.
Lane departure warning: Alerts the driver if the system determines that the car is drifting towards clearly marked lanes.
It'll begin the beep-beeping when the car gets within 5cm of such lines. That means it sounds rather often on our narrow roads - luckily, it can be turned off.
Vehicle sway warning: Alerts the driver if the car starts to sway from one side of the road to another, which may occur with fatigue.
Lead vehicle start alert: When the EyeSight-equipped vehicle is stopped and the vehicle in front starts to move, the driver receives an audible reminder and information display indicator notifying them that the vehicle in front has moved.
Just the thing when you're busy texting at an intersection!