Subaru's latest Outback packs the third generation of its driver assist program Eyesight. Trying it out demonstrates just how far we have come along the road to fully autonomous vehicles.
The Eyesight system does three things, adaptive cruise control, collision avoidance and lane departure warnings.
Rather than the laser based systems that other car makers employ, Subaru's has cameras mounted alongside the rear view mirror and it is the visual information that defines the actions the system will take. For the first time the Eyesight cameras are colour which allows for some improvements to be made to the system.
In adaptive cruise control mode the car maintains a set distance to the vehicle in front. As cars move in and out of lanes it will accelerate or decelerate as necessary. Each time the target vehicle changes the system beeps to warn you that attention is required.
The system will also brake the car down to a standstill if your path is blocked. It can cope with a speed differential of up to 30mph, so can't defeated the laws of physics if you come across a stationary vehicle when tanking down a back road, but it will at least mitigate the impact by applying full braking and, should you attempt to swerve around the obstruction apply the stability control to assist you. If it's a car that stops in front of you, the Eyesight system will recognise the brake lights coming on and apply your own anchors in preparation. If nothing else its reaction should beat yours.
The system will warn you if the car in front has moved off, if you aren't paying attention and will also beep at you if you wander across a lane marker without indicating.
In practice, the various components of the system, working together, allow you to cruise down the motorway without using the pedals. Once you learn to trust the system. The level of concentration necessary is lessened too.
The performance of the system is so good, that I can't help but wonder if the next version will tie into the cars powere steering to take care of direction changes too. Maybe not driving by itself, but certainly assisting with that morning commute.
If the cars on the road today are this good, how far are the cars of tomorrow ahead? In the same week that an autonomous car drove across America the Subaru Eyesight system impressed me massively. The two are closely connected dots on the line to self driving cars.
Whilst we've seen similar functions on other cars, the Outback has Eyesight fitted as standard on a car which is neither expensive nor exclusive. That's a very big step forward indeed.