Here’s the truth about safety tech on modern cars: You kind of want to forget all about it. The technology should just be working in the background, like a service robot doing all the work while you enjoy a conversation or look at the fall scenery.
On a long drive up north of where I live, I tested the 2024 Subaru Impreza 5-Door and had the automated steering mode activated the entire time. Subaru uses the more technical term Automatic Emergency Steering and it works at speeds below 50 MPH to make sure you don’t veer into a lane and collide with another car, holding you in the lane instead.
This is different from lane-keeping, by the way. Subaru EyeSight is a suite of radar and camera technologies that can alert you about front collisions And intervene if needed with assisted braking), monitor lane-keeping problems (nudging you back if you drift and beeping), and more standard adaptive cruise control features (maintaining a safe distance automatically). The automated steering is more like driving by wire where the vehicle is trying to keep you centered, as opposed to warning you about a lane departure or nudging you back.
Using the feature is interesting, because it’s a hybrid of complete hands-free driving (like you will see in some GM and Ford vehicles these days and on many Tesla cars) and semi-automated driving. You should keep your hands on the wheel, unlike fully automated driving, but you can feel the 2024 Subaru Impreza driving and centering at all times.
To activate it, there’s a small automated steering button you press. When this mode is actively steering for you, a small icon appears in the dashboard display and glows green.
In my tests, the best thing I can say about it is this — I forgot it was on. I was driving on a country road at about 50 MPH or less — the road was mostly straight with clear lane markings. I noticed the slight intervention at times, but not as much as a fully-automated vehicle that lets you take your hands off the wheel and is constantly correcting and correcting.
I liked the milder intervention, which allowed me to still be the human driver, but was obviously assisting as I drove the car. It felt a bit like an extra shield of protection, but not a complete shield of protection.
I didn’t try to test this (since it is too dangerous), but the Automatic Emergency Steering is likely always on the lookout for passing cars from behind and in other lanes. If I tried to move into the lane and there was an approaching vehicle, Automatic Emergency Steering would probably not let me do that maneuver, which is a good thing. It never had to intervene like that.
This might be the best approach for now, since fully automated driving can feel like you are driving on a wire and doesn’t really work for long distances and many different driving conditions. I left the automated steering mode on for three hours, and it really just became part of the safety suite working behind the scenes. It wasn’t obvious or distracting, just helping a little and waiting to see if it needed to actually intervene. It’s smart, not obtrusive, and helpful.