Early iterations of Subaru’s EyeSight crash avoidance system prevented actual collisions with cyclists who were riding parallel to the road, but were less successful in preventing bicycle crashes overall.
The findings came from a new study released Tuesday from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The study compared bicycle crash rates for Subaru models with EyeSight against those models without it in 16 U.S. states from 2014 through 2020.
Only bicycles moving parallel to the car could be detected by the system’s first two iterations. According to the IIHS study, the system reduced those types of parallel crashes by 29% but had a negligible effect on crashes involving cyclists as a whole. That’s because first- or second-generation EyeSight systems on the Crosstrek, Forester, Legacy, Outback, Impreza and WRX were engineered to prevent crashes with bicycles traveling parallel to the vehicle. So the system worked as advertised.
EyeSight uses two cameras mounted behind the windshield as well a suite of driver-assistance systems, including Pre-Collision Braking and Throttle Management; Adaptive Cruise Control; Lane Departure and Sway Warning; Lane Keep Assist; and most importantly, Automatic Emergency Braking, or AEB for short.
The automaker has sold more than 5 million vehicles with EyeSight since it was introduced in Japan in May 2008. It was introduced in the U.S. in 2013 on the Legacy and Outback, and is now available across the entire Subaru model line. Currently, EyeSight-equipped models currently account for 91% of the manufacturer’s global sales.
“It’s promising that these early versions of EyeSight prevented crashes with bicycles traveling parallel to the road,” said Jessica Cicchino, vice president of research at the Institute and the author of the study. “But to have a meaningful impact, AEB systems also need to be able to prevent crashes with bicycles that are crossing in front of the vehicle.”
The impact of AEB
Previous IIHS studies found that 45% of the more than 3,300 cyclists killed in accidents from 2008 to 2012 involved a car that hit a cyclist from behind while their bicycle was moving in the same direction. Yet that scenario only accounts for 9% of cyclist/vehicle crashes. The second most common cause of death, 22%, involves a cyclist crossing perpendicular in front of a vehicle, which accounts for 29% of crashes.
But the early versions of EyeSight did reduce perpendicular vehicle crashes by 9% and overall crash rates by 5%.
The third-generation of Subaru’s EyeSight improves on the system by using a third camera to expand its — ahem — eyesight. It was introduced in the U.S. market on the 2022 Forester and WRX; and the 2023 Ascent, Legacy and Outback.
But Cicchino says the systems won’t be totally effective until they prevent cyclist/vehicle collisions in the dark. And beyond automaker actions, adding dedicated bike lanes can go a long way towards reducing cyclist/vehicle collisions.
“These technologies are fantastic, but it will be a long time before every vehicle in the fleet is equipped with such a system,” Cicchino said. “That’s why we need things like better roadway lighting to help drivers to see cyclists at night as well as more separated bike lanes and other infrastructure improvements that we know reduce crash risk.”
The EyeSight system has long been lauded by the agency for mitigating collisions between Subarus and pedestrians, as well as reducing rear-end collisions.
The agency rates Subaru vehicles highly for safety, with the 2023 Subaru Outback wagon, Solterra, and Ascent as a Top Safety Pick Plus, and the 2023 Subaru Legacy and Forester as a Top Safety Pick.