Speaking to CarAdvice at the New York motor show, the newly appointed CEO of Subaru America, Tom Doll, said that no matter what some other companies might say publicly, for now, driver’s need to keep their eyes on the road.
“You can’t take your eyes off the road,” Doll said.
“Despite what some other manufacturers might be saying about their system, or trying to rush them too much into the marketplace, we are going to do it in a smart way.”
His words come just a few days after not only the first pedestrian death as a result of an autonomously operated vehicle (by Uber) but also a Tesla Model X which crashed in the USA in reported Autopilot mode, killing its driver (which has coincidentally helped send Tesla shares to 12-month lows).
According to Doll, Subaru won’t put the benefits of being one of the first to market with a potentially immature technology above its customer safety.
“We are going to do it in a way to make sure our customers are safe, we are going to try and prevent collisions first, and from there we will take it forward.”
Subaru’s stance on autonomous driving comes as the manufacturer unveils its new driver monitoring system with the all-new Subaru Forester, which incorporates facial recognition systems that not only allow preference settings for each assigned driver (up to five), but also go hand-in-hand with the company’s Eyesight system to help prevent collisions.
“It recognises your face, the face of the driver, so if you’re staring away for a couple of seconds it will alert you – but if you don’t put your eyes back on the system, it will start to work in combination with our Eyesight system to prevent any kind of crash that Eyesight can protect from. So it’s a very, very unique type of system in this price range.
“You can see where we are going. Our Eyesight technology is, if not the best then one of the best systems out there. You combine it with lane keep assist and adaptive cruise control and now driver focus; probably if I wanted to drive it to New Jersey [from New York] and don’t touch anything, I could probably get away with it.”
As for when Subaru will finally bite the bullet and introduce level three or level four autonomous technology into their cars? Not anytime soon.
“It’s out there, we don’t have a specific timetable, I won’t say decades but it’s not imminent.”
Are the likes of Subaru falling behind with their conservative approach to autonomous driving technologies, or is it best to wait and let the technology mature further before going to market?