A proposed class action alleges the systems that make up Subaru’s EyeSight Driver Assist Technology suite of safety features in 2013-2021 vehicle models are hampered by software calibration and integration issues and do not work as advertised in real-world driving conditions.
The 187-page lawsuit alleges Subaru has failed to warn buyers and lessees that the vehicles’ pre-collision and reverse automatic braking features, which together make up the automaker’s autonomous emergency braking system (AEB), and “Lane Keep Assist” functions pose a real safety risk. In sum, the complaint alleges that Subaru’s EyeSight Driver Assist Technology increases a driver’s chances of being involved in a collision in that the systems are prone to both activate without cause and fail to activate when they should.
With regard to Subaru’s AEB system, the lawsuit claims the technology is prone to activate a car’s brakes when there is nothing in front of the vehicle or behind the car when it is backing up. Further, the complaint claims Subaru’s AEB system also sometimes fails to activate at all when there are persons or objects in front of the vehicle.
According to the suit, the automatic braking problem stems from “manufacturing and workmanship defects” that include, but are not limited to, poor calibration of the vehicles’ software. What occurs, the lawsuit says, is a “miscommunication” between every system involved in a Subaru’s automatic braking, including the vehicle’s sensors, brakes and transmission.
“The AEB System Defect prevents the AEB Class Vehicles from behaving as designed and advertised in real-world driving conditions,” the lawsuit out of New Jersey federal court claims.
Subaru is also accused in the lawsuit of failing to disclose that its Lane Keep Assist feature is similarly problematic in that “design, manufacturing and/or workmanship defects” are to blame for poor software calibration between multiple control modules, including the power steering control. This issue, according to the complaint, can cause a Subaru’s system to attempt to correct a vehicle’s steering by “jerk[ing] the steering wheel without cause” as an individual is driving on a road with construction barriers or trying to change lanes.
Moreover, the lawsuit claims the possibility exists that a Subaru’s Lane Keep Assist system will “malfunction and shut down entirely” while a vehicle is in motion. In that event, the case says, the Lane Keep Assist function cannot be used again until the car is restarted.
Overall, the Lane Keep Assist defect “makes driving the vehicle unsafe and the operation of vehicle [sic] unpredictable,” the suit alleges.
For its part, Subaru has known of the alleged AEB and Lane Keep Assist defects since as early as 2012 yet has, in the face of a bevy of customer complaints, “knowingly, actively, and affirmatively” failed to disclose the problems and their corresponding safety risks, the lawsuit contends.
“In fact, instead of repairing the AEB Class Vehicles and LKA Class Vehicles, Subaru has insisted that the vehicles are working correctly,” the case, which was filed by drivers from Illinois, New York and Pennsylvania and the estate of one Wisconsin resident, says.
How the systems should work
Subaru’s pre-collision braking system is designed to “help you avoid or reduce frontal impacts by alerting you and applying full braking force in emergency situations,” and “can even bring you to a full stop if necessary,” the lawsuit says. Likewise, Subaru’s reverse automatic braking can sense objects behind a vehicle while it backs up at a low speed and can apply the brakes when necessary, per the case. Both systems rely on cameras to detect objects in the forward- and rearward-facing paths of a Subaru, the suit relays, and are supposed to “sound an alarm and flash a warning and then activate the brakes if the driver does not do so.”
Subaru’s Lane Keep Assist function also relies on a front camera with the intent of monitoring the road for lane markings, the case continues. The system is similarly designed to sound an alarm if a vehicle strays over or sways between the lines. If a driver does not respond quickly enough, Lane Keep Assist is meant to correct the vehicle’s steering to keep the car in its lane, the suit says.
According to the lawsuit, Subaru is responsible for ensuring that its EyeSight Driver Assist systems, which the case calls “one of the most heavily advertised pieces of technology” in the defendant’s vehicles, are calibrated to work together. Per the case, the systems are run by control modules that must be “tuned” to work with one another to ensure the vehicles are operating properly and as drivers expect.
The case traces the alleged problems plaguing Subaru’s EyeSight Driver Assist functions to “impurities” that often arise – and should be dealt with – during manufacturing.
“[The sensors and cameras used by the systems] also must be installed and centered precisely,” the complaint adds. “Variations in materials or position cause these systems to malfunction.”
Additionally hamstringing Subaru’s driver assist safety features are “programming defects” that may develop during manufacture. In particular, the case alleges the underlying code and algorithm responsible for determining landscape and obstacles and then deciding on the correct response can end up differing from the original intended design.
The complaint goes on to allege Subaru’s “testing and validation procedures” in developing the safety systems at issue were inadequate as far as producing real-world conditions, including driver reaction time; the existence of road objects such as garbage cans, guard rails, tunnels and extreme curves found with highway on- and off-ramps; parked cars in a parking lot; and the incline found at the end of driveways and parking lot entrances.
Subaru’s represented that the AEB systems and the Lane Keep Assist function in the AEB and LKA Class Vehicles would prevent collisions and accidents, as opposed to merely reducing the severity of the impact. However, Subaru overreached, improperly tuning the driver assistance systems to fully apply the brakes when the system detects anything it believes is stationary in front of the vehicle, even if the object is on the side of the road and regardless of its size. The result is that the systems activate unnecessarily early and with unnecessary force. Furthermore, the camera system shared by the AEB and Lane Keep Assist systems does not always accurately identify what items are stationary.”
Notwithstanding this “inadequate calibration and tuning process,” Subaru, the lawsuit alleges, has nevertheless touted its driver assistance technologies as providing superior safety to drivers and passengers.
Who’s covered by the lawsuit?
The lawsuit looks to represent all U.S. residents and those in its territories who bought or leased any model year 2013-2021 Subaru vehicle equipped with an autonomous emergency braking system or Lane Keep Assist system.
Separately proposed are “subclasses” that pertain to Subaru drivers fitting the same criteria in Illinois, New York, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
How can I be included?
Generally speaking, there’s nothing you need to do to “join” or be considered a participant in a class action lawsuit; you’ll only need to act when and if a case settles.
Class action cases usually take some time to work their way through the legal process, usually toward a settlement, dismissal or arbitration outside of court. This means those who are proposed to be covered by a class action, called “class members,” may have to wait a while before seeing how things play out.
If you believe you’ve been affected by a company’s alleged conduct, the best thing to do is to stay informed and check back with ClassAction.org for updates. You can sign up for our free weekly newsletter here.