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What Is Subaru DriverFocus?

Today’s cars offer more smart software and driver assistance features than ever. Safety ingenuity has also brought a host of new tech. Some features, such as back-up cameras, are stand-alone. Others are packaged into suites of driver aids like cross-traffic alerts and lane-changing assist. But some automakers take safety tech to another level by creating their own ecosystems. One example is Subaru DriverFocus.

But do brand-developed aids like Subaru’s include all the latest features, or do they repackage the same assistance tech under a new name? And what exactly does DriverFocus do?

What’s different about Subaru DriverFocus technology?

Not all driver-assist suites are created equal. And Subaru DriverFocus is a prime example. Though most of the automaker’s models boast a host of driver aids, DriverFocus is a new monitoring system based on driving behavior, Subaru explains. To combat distracted driving, the system uses facial recognition software to tune into a driver’s head and eye movements. 

Looking for signs of drowsy driving, distracted driving, or fatigue, the software issues a visual and audible warning. If the driver ignores those warnings, the vehicle will slow down and eventually stop. If the driver still fails to respond, DriverFocus will use Subaru’s Starlink safety and security service to call for emergency assistance.

How Subaru DriverFocus works

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Unlike other driver aids, the Subaru DriverFocus Distraction Mitigation System (DMS) addresses distracted driving. The system’s memory settings accommodate up to five drivers to automatically adjust the software and driver position.

According to J.D. Power, setup is easy. Each driver creates a facial recognition profile with a turn or two of the head. The tech can even identify an individual wearing sunglasses. That could mean the difference between an uneventful drive and a tragic one. Preventing distracted driving is a safety game-changer.

Subaru models with this technology

Subaru DriverFocus launched with the 2019 Forester. It then became available in the 2020 Outback SUV and Legacy sedan. All three of these popular Subaru models come with the driver monitoring system for 2021. It’s available as standard equipment on higher trims.

For now, no other Subaru models offer this tech, but the automaker will probably roll out the software in other vehicles in the coming model years. 

Oh, and if you’re wondering what many others have thought, know this: DriverFocus doesn’t record real-time driving, J.D. Power reports. But if the tech still creeps you out with “too much Big Brother-style monitoring,” you can turn it off by pressing a button.

The dangers of relying on driver assistance features

Kelley Blue Book points out some National Highway Traffic Safety Administration stats regarding distracted driving crashes. In 2015, for example, driver distractions caused more than 3,000 of 32,166 reported crashes. From isolated medical emergencies to more common yet dangerous fatiguing behind the wheel, distracted driving is a real concern. 

Subaru DriverFocus is a unique solution to these problems. But it’s also important to remember that no software can replace an attentive motorist’s safe driving habits. Like other driver aids, DriverFocus could still glitch or fail (or you could forget you turned it off that time you thought it was creepy). Relying on your rearview camera, for example, without turning your head to check your surroundings before reversing, could still result in your backing into something. 

Overreliance on software can be dangerous in other ways too. Even if you own a Subaru model with DriverFocus, you shouldn’t get behind the wheel if you’re overly exhausted. And, of course, avoid texting and driving, a tremendously hazardous distraction.