MITO, Japan — Subaru Corp. will roll out an updated version of its EyeSight safety system this summer in Japan to provide limited self-driving capabilities on the highway and during low-speed traffic jams.
Marketed under the name Touring Assist, the new camera-based function will be able to automatically steer a car around curves. It will appear in the Japanese Lavorg wagon and S4 sedan, a local version of the WRX.
Subaru has no concrete timetable for bringing the system to the U.S., but Tasuku Maruyama, manager of advanced safety design at Subaru, said he hopes it will arrive within five years.
The system relies on cameras to track lane markings as well as the car ahead.
Maruyama said tweaks are needed to adjust the system to American roads. Roads in the U.S. are sometimes poorly maintained, making it difficult for the system’s cameras to track lane markings. U.S. highways sometimes also have much sharper curves than those encountered in Japan.
The current generation EyeSight system already allows for limited self-steering in Japan. But it works only between the speeds of 60-100 km/h (37-62 mph). This year’s upgrade extends EyeSight’s range of visibility so it can work at speeds below 37 mph and up to 120 km/h (80 mph).
Although the new technology is capable of steering a vehicle without human intervention, it still requires human hands on the wheel. If the driver lets go for more than 10 seconds, a warning sounds and eventually the auto-steer function disengages.
EyeSight is currently available in the U.S. market as a lane-keep assist technology that merely corrects steering if the car drifts out of a lane. U.S. drivers must keep the car centered by hand.
The existing U.S. version does not allow a car to automatically stay centered in the lane as the road curves.
During a June 14 demonstration at Subaru’s proving ground here north of Tokyo, the new technology deftly steered a Levorg on a track, automatically turning the steering wheel beneath the driver’s fingers and slowing and stopping in rhythm with other vehicles on the road.
In Japan, Touring Assist will come standard on all new Levorg and S4 vehicles and eventually be spread as standard equipment across the entire lineup, except for certain sports models.
Subaru’s EyeSight system doesn’t work in cars equipped with manual transmissions.
Subaru has not revealed pricing for the safety system, but estimates the addition will boost a vehicle’s purchase price by several hundred dollars.