By on November 28, 2017

I don’t know who coined the term — I suspect it was Car and Driver, which was then at an all-time peak of editorial excellence — but this is probably one of those cases where success has many fathers, and the child in this case was the phrase “idiot light.”

Let’s say that you were a new-car buyer in 1977. The vast majority of the cars you saw in a dealership would have just two gauges: speedometer and fuel level. Any other information was conveyed in binary fashion by a set of light-up warnings. The typical Seventies American car would have TEMP (for overheating), OIL (for lack of oil pressure), ALT (alternator/battery), and BRAKE (for low brake fluid), but some models had additional lights for low coolant and other functions.

The self-appointed automotive cognoscenti were very contemptuous of these lights, because they didn’t convey much information and they usually didn’t convey it until things had gotten drastic. Why not have a temperature gauge to let you know that your car was getting hot on the way up the Grapevine? Or an oil-pressure gauge, to give you a general idea of your engine health? Why couldn’t the driver be trusted to know the real information and to act accordingly?

Eventually, the “buff books” got their way and most cars started arriving in showrooms with at least a tachometer and a temp gauge in addition to speedo and fuel. The presence of extra gauges became the in-dash equivalent of a decklid spoiler, with various sporting models adding information on oil pressure, oil temperature, and boost pressure — where applicable, of course. This was done to make the driver feel like he was behind the wheel of a race car. Never mind the fact that modern race cars have embraced the “idiot light” wholeheartedly. My wife’s MX-5 Cup car has no fewer than six programmable warning lights flanking the tach. When you’re racing for real, it’s better to have a very bright light pop on every time there’s a real problem. It saves you the trouble of replacing the engine.

Today’s cars offer an absolute surfeit of available information through programmable dashboard layouts, of course, but the battle still rages between people who want to see analog information — let’s call them Evaluators — and people who just want to see a light — let’s call them Booleans. You can tell a lot about a car company, and that car company’s intended customer base, by seeing whether they cater to Evaluators or Booleans on any given subject. Consider, if you will, the 2018 Accord, which abandons the former and jumps to the latter in one significant aspect.

2018 Honda Accord Touring 2.0T - Image: Honda
Honda’s LaneWatch appeared five years ago and, from the moment I saw it, I knew the whole industry would have to copy it or die trying. It works very simply: when you put your right turn signal on, it shows you a view of your right-side “blind spot” with helpful markings to show where the back bumper of your car would be if you moved over there. The display is remarkably clear and entirely accurate; if you can see a sliver of space between a bumper and the red line, your car is going to fit, no questions asked. In most of the cars to which it was fitted, including my 2014 Accord Coupe, the LaneWatch display is relatively high and central on the dashboard, so you don’t have to take your eyes completely off the road ahead in order to see what’s behind you and to the right. It can also be manually activated if you just want to take a look over there for motorcycles, cyclists, or low-roofed sports cars.

LaneWatch is utterly brilliant — if you have an idea of how to use it. It gives you all the information you need to determine if you should move into the next lane and when you should make that move. It’s a godsend in cramped rush-hour traffic, where it lets you sneak into tiny spots on your way over to an off-ramp. It’s brilliant in states that permit lane-splitting; you can take a peek to see if there’s a motorcycle over there. In urban traffic, you can leave it switched on in order to keep an eye out for cyclists.

I wasn’t the only person to sing the praises of LaneWatch, although Jamie LaReau at Automotive News disliked it because it kept you from being able to change radio stations while you were changing lanes. Most of my autojourno friends and foes agree that it’s a solid feature. It even makes you a slightly better citizen of the road, because it only activates by default when you use your right turn signal. I figured that pretty much every automaker out there would eventually figure out a way to put something similar in their cars, particularly since a lot of entry-luxury sedans and SUVs already have a “birdview” camera arrangement for parking.

Turns out I was wrong. LaneWatch didn’t catch on anywhere else. Worse yet, it’s now disappearing from Honda products, starting with the 2018 Accord. That fine vehicle has dispensed with LaneWatch in favor of an utterly conventional blind-spot monitoring system just like the ones found everywhere from Audi to Kia. In other words, they paved paradise and put up a parking lot. Or maybe you can say that they wiped out analog information and put up an idiot light.

I don’t trust the idiot light. The engineer in me doesn’t like the failure mode. You see, when LaneWatch fails you get a black screen, which lets you know that you’d better crane your neck old-fashioned style. But when BLIS fails, you just get a mirror devoid of warnings. LaneWatch is like a John Updike novel, full of trenchant observations and little details. BLIS is like the sullen teenager who comes from school and responds to all queries with a mumbled “Fine.” With LaneWatch, you can slip into the tightest spots; with BLIS, you guess and crank. LaneWatch will show you a car that is approaching at an unusual and/or unreasonable closing speed; BLIS stays silent until the car hits the radar beam. I know which one I prefer. Hell, if I had my way you’d have LaneWatch on both sides, depending on which way you flicked the turn-signal lever.

If I had to guess, I’d say that LaneWatch disappeared for two reasons. The first reason: it’s probably cheaper to do BLIS now. The sensors and mirrors are all standard Tier 1 supplier commodity grade now. The second reason is a little more frustrating. I suspect that Honda dealers didn’t like educating their customers on LaneWatch. If you’ve read Arrogance and Accords, you know how and why Honda dealers came to be pretty much the worst in the business, with the possible exception of Toyota shops. They like to rake in the money with the absolute minimum of effort. Showing customers how to get the most out of an analog feature like LaneWatch isn’t part of that program. Au revoir, then.

It might not be the end. At some point, someone will figure out how to build a wireless heads-up LaneWatch-style system that works with everything from Civics to Silverados. You’ll have to calibrate the red lines yourself, but that could be done in ten minutes with the help of a friend. I’d probably buy a system like that for my race cars, because having extra eyes on both sides of the car can be the difference between winning and losing. Until then, however, it’s back to the idiot lights. Maybe that’s all we deserve. A nation of idiots, too busy to be watchful.

[Images: Honda]

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100 Comments on “No Fixed Abode: LaneWatch, We Hardly Knew Ye...”


  • avatar
    BuzzDog

    “I don’t know who coined the term — I suspect it was Car and Driver, which was then at an all-time peak of editorial excellence — but this is probably one of those cases where success has many fathers, and the child in this case was the phrase ‘idiot light.’”

    The phrase dates back further than the 1970s; this is the earliest example I could find in Popular Mechanics (October 1961, about the same time that Karl Ludvigsen changed the name of Sports Cars Illustrated to Car and Driver.

    https://books.google.com/books?id=XCEDAAAAMBAJ&pg=PA210&dq=“Idiot+light”&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjhiKjKuOHXAhXL4iYKHSm9AXw4ChDoAQg8MAY#v=onepage&q=“Idiot%20light”&f=false

    It wouldn’t surprise me if Tom McCahill coined the phrase even earlier, at Mechanix Illustrated. It simply sounds like something that he’d write.

  • avatar
    ajla

    Oil temperature is a very useful gauge.

    • 0 avatar
      Carzzi

      Agreed. I wish the 2015+ performance-pack-equipped Mustangs replaced the useless dash-center vacuum gauge with an oil temperature gauge like in the GT350’s, in addition to the useful oil pressure dial. I’m guessing they avoided that due to the alarm it would create among, uh, alarmists when de rigueur 220+°F temperatures are observed. The center LCD does have a buried-in-menus “idiot” ungraduated oil temp display; but one can usually divine that level of boolean information by simply looking at the oil pressure gauge — which reads higher pressures until the engine warms up fully.

    • 0 avatar
      Guitar man

      The temp light on GM cars was actually a variable rheostat ; it got brighter the hotter the engine got. Bit useless though when the sunlight was shining on it.

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    I have never heard of this Lane Watch you speak/write of so I can’t say that I am overly distraught at its demise. Of course, this is mostly because I have not sat in an Accord newer than 2011.

    When I bought my 14′ Lacrosse I figured I would not like the ‘nanny’ devices: adaptive CC, blind spot warning. In a twist of fate, I find them fantastic, adaptive CC is my favorite.

    Fun fact. You have to be going greater than 20 mph or so to set the CC. Adaptive CC will literally stop the car if the car in front of you gets close. When in B to B traffic that is limping along all one needs to do is select the Resume, if you were using CC prior to traffic snarl, and the adaptive cruise will keep you from hitting the car in front of you while doing 0-5 mph. Who knew Buick had a self driving car?

    • 0 avatar
      Detroit-Iron

      I have a ’15 Odyssey and lane watch is amazing and I am sad to hear that they are discontinuing it. There is a camera in the housing of the passenger side mirror. When you turn on the signal the image shows up on the very large top screen in the console, so basically as you naturally move your head to look to the right, rather than looking all the way over to the mirror you can stop at the console and get your eyes back forward much quicker. It also has a much wider field of view than the mirror, and the aforementioned guidelines.

      I am not trying to oversell it, I have my mirrors adjusted properly and try to keep my head on a swivel, it just makes it so much easier to not sideswipe anyone. As long as you use your signal. That is probably the real reason it’s going away, nobody uses their g’damn signal anyway. I bet half the people who had Lane Watch never activated it.

      • 0 avatar
        sgeffe

        At least on the Accord (with standard Sensing package), if you’re moving fast enough, you’ll either have the Lane Departure Warning beep at you, or the car will try to steer back into the lane if Lane-Keep Assist is engaged.

        The nicest feature of LaneWatch is when you need to move right into a free lane from a stop; the wider perspective makes it easier to judge distance and speed versus the mirror. (A 360-degree camera would be almost as good, but of course Honda didn’t include that on the Accord.)

      • 0 avatar
        Willyam

        I had it on my leased 2014 Ody. I hated the radio for it’s over-complicated LCD silliness (two different paths, minimum, for each function) but LaneWatch was the cat’s’ pajamas. In larger urban environs I did keep it on all the time. After all, this is a van with a large quantity of tuckus.
        Can’t say the same for the beeper that watched the stripes for you. THAT was the exact definition of what Jack’s talking about with idiot lights. Constant false beeps every time you changed lanes or hit an exit or dodged a discarded tread. I would imagine it’s their most disabled tech feature ever.

      • 0 avatar
        mlfetterman

        I for one love my lanewatch and use it every time I drive. On the highway I keep it on manually since you end up changing lanes more frequently, especially when using the high speed/passing Lane. I love it so much, that this year when my CRV lease is up, even though I may like to try a different make of vehicle, I’m going to stick with Honda for this reason alone!

  • avatar
    indi500fan

    Fun fact from Wiki…Hudson was the first to substitute lights for oil pressure and voltmeter.

    • 0 avatar
      Syke

      Thank you for the memory jog. This happened in the mid-1930’s, I believe the Terraplane had it first.

      As to calling them ‘idiot lights’, I remember the term being used back when I was in grade school (mid-50’s). And Chrysler products were so unique because they hung on to gauges longer than anyone else.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        Chrysler Flight Command Instrumentation if I recall correctly. I’m reminded of that marketing when ever I see the Toyota ads “Travel Avalon Class” with the pilot at the controls.

      • 0 avatar

        What Syke said. In fact, it is one of the reasons I appreciate Chrylser – now FCA – vehicles. I prefer a temp, alternator and oil pressure gauges so I can know better what’s going on with the car itself. The one thing I kind of don’t get is why have a tach in a car that has an automatic as opposed to a manual transmission. (I can see some of the reasoning behind it, but I could see the argument against it also.)

  • avatar
    wamm002

    Love LaneWatch on my Pilot for all the reasons you stated. Real information is superior to an idiot light for a car at your side. My wife’s 2017 CRV? No LaneWatch, what a bummer. I too would love to see LaneWatch for both sides of the car, but it would probably need to be set up with video screens on both sides of the car, maybe in place of the side mirrors? This would prevent idiots from mistaking a left or right image on a central video screen

  • avatar
    s_a_p

    Honda got too many complaints about people not being able to change the radio station, text and change lanes at the same time…

  • avatar
    gearhead77

    I liked Lanewatch in our ’14 Odyssey. It was borderline distracting at first, but once you got used to it and could use it with minimal effort, it was useful. I know the Honda “two-display” system was derided, but putting Lanewatch in the upper monitor on the Odyssey put it into nearly the same line of sight as the right side mirror. You could “trust” with rearview mirror and “verify” with Lanewatch. My kids got a kick out of it too.

    The cameras in that Odyssey are better than our current Sienna SE. The aspect to the Toyota is funky, it doesn’t seem as “true” as the Honda’s. Perhaps the introduction of these rear-cross path systems (which our Sienna has as part of a package) means they can justify a worse camera. I love the style of our Sienna SE, but our Odyssey was better at little things. Little things win the day in most segments and that’s true in the minivan world.

    As far as lights v gauges, I’m torn. The airplane I currently fly for a living is gauges. There’s something reassuring about being able to glance at the gauges, see them at their appropriate nominal positions in flight and know all is well. Major issues will also have an associated caution or warning light.

    But the aircraft I will transition to in a few months is all screens (with associated caution/warning lights for major issues). You must press buttons to view information on certain systems BUT you have more information available at that time too. Also, the screens mean less to go wrong. Depending on the gauge (some are analog with an LCD readout) you can legally fly without the LCD but not the needle. There are 2-4 tiny light bulbs in each instrument too. All this adds complexity and maintenance issues which delay/cancel flights, which no one wants.

    I just turned 40, so like quite a few here, I remember the time before computers or mobile devices and having to function without them. But I also came of age when computers did too and I can appreciate them for the now nearly immeasurable capability they provide. I don’t want to go back to an analog existence, but the all computer future is a bit disturbing too.

  • avatar
    Sceptic

    I’ve seen this feature while riding in friends Civic. Pretty neat but a bit unusual. How do they keep the camera clean?

  • avatar
    jalop1991

    LaneWatch is lunacy. It’s stupid. I hate it.

    Plus, it’s something to BREAK–and it will be the FIRST thing that won’t get fixed.

    The right answer is to (a) use side mirrors that actually work (I’m looking at you, Subaru, for the side mirror on your Outback that is nothing but a makeup mirror for the driver, because it can’t be adjusted outward at all) and (b) set the side mirrors properly.

    There. Problem solved. ALL of the information is right there at your disposal, instantly, in an analog or “Evaluator” fashion. No blind spot whatsoever. And it requires zero fragile technology–nothing but mirrors.

    • 0 avatar
      ClutchCarGo

      I test drove a CRV and found LaneWatch distracting but I could understand those who come to like it. What I really find dumb is the Blind Spot indicator in the mirror. Duh, the mirrors EXIST to show you the blind spot, and if adjusted properly will show you just what the little light is trying to tell you: There’s something just behind and to the side of you. I only see the light when I’m looking in the mirror, at which time I can see the vehicle. A blind spot indicator would be more useful on the A pillar where it could let me know about an adjacent vehicle without having to look into the mirror.

      • 0 avatar
        sirwired

        Mirrors don’t totally show the blind spot; that’s why it’s called a blind spot.

        And if you activate your turn signal, the BSI will beep at you if it sees a car on the side you are signalling on, so you don’t need to turn your head.

        • 0 avatar
          jalop1991

          “Mirrors don’t totally show the blind spot”

          Wrong.

          https://www.cartalk.com/content/avoiding-blind-spot-5

          This works, your denial notwithstanding.

          Go ahead, try it. If you continue to insist it doesn’t work, you’re lying.

          • 0 avatar

            Agree with Jalop. Properly adjusted mirrors and you have no blind spot. Now, the mentioned issue with Subaru, and perhaps others, that does’t allow one to adjust the mirror outwardly makes it difficult if not impossible to make the necessary adjustment so YMMV.

        • 0 avatar
          ClutchCarGo

          I’ve never had a vehicle where I couldn’t adjust the mirrors so that the blind spot was visible at a glance. I don’t know whether the BSI in my car interacts with the turn signal because I don’t use the turn signal until I’ve checked the mirror to make sure that the lane is clear.

          • 0 avatar
            jalop1991

            “I’ve never had a vehicle where I couldn’t adjust the mirrors so that the blind spot was visible at a glance.”

            Go test drive a Subaru Outback, and see how badly they botched the mirrors.

            The driver’s side mirror quite literally cannot be adjusted outward any further than my seeing the side of the car.

            Not only were the seats just not that comfortable; I told the guy flat-out that the driver’s side mirror was a pure deal-breaker. I wouldn’t have that car.

            I can’t believe ANY engineer screwed things up that badly.

    • 0 avatar
      tooloud10

      Not that you’ve provided any evidence that LaneWatch will break before the rest of the car, whether it gets fixed or not is up to the owner, I guess. I’ve had a bunch of vehicles with camera systems and have never had a failure–they’re pretty basic solid state devices.

      OTOH, I’ve had several power window failures in the last ten years. Doesn’t mean I’m going to start winding them by hand again. It’s true that we can avoid blind spots with properly adjusted mirrors. It’s also true blindspot/LaneWatch systems reduce collisions.

      The goal is to reduce accidents, and “Everybody should just be more careful!” isn’t a helpful solution to that problem. I have my mirrors adjusted properly and consider myself to be a safe driver, but my F150 saved my bacon once during a lapse of attention where I started drifting across a white line and the BLIS freaked out and the lane keeping system jerked the wheel back into my lane for me.

      Anyone that claims to have never made an honest mistake like this is probably a liar.

      • 0 avatar
        jalop1991

        “OTOH, I’ve had several power window failures in the last ten years. Doesn’t mean I’m going to start winding them by hand again.”

        It’s a matter of costs vs benefits.

        The camera system has plenty of cost but zero benefit over properly adjusted mirrors.

        Add to that the fact that it will break down the road, and you’re never going to spend the money to fix it, and you’ll be back to the mirrors by themselves again–and the question becomes, why not just stick with the mirrors that are tried, true, and analog?

        • 0 avatar
          tooloud10

          No benefit? Says you. The clearest benefit is having to take your eyes off the road in front of you for less time with these systems. With BLIS in my pickup and daily driver Nissan, the amber LEDs alert me to whether someone is next to me without even moving my head.

          LaneWatch requires you to look at the screen in the top center of the dash–again, you’re essentially moving your eyes rather than your whole head.

          Also, why do you keep insisting that this stuff will break and I won’t fix it? You may drive around beaters with broken parts that you’re too cheap to fix (and PERFECTLY adjusted mirrors!), but that doesn’t mean the rest of us do. I’ve had all this tech in a half dozen cars and none of it has ever failed.

          It’s not complicated technology. You sound like an old man yelling at the clouds with the “It’s just one more thing to break!” argument. A power mirror motor with moving parts will never break, but a solid state camera will?

  • avatar
    Maymar

    I never experienced LaneWatch in the real world, but I was impressed enough by it, playing around with it in a parking lot.

    That said, while I know it’s not a perfect equivalence, I wonder if the problem is just that the Evaluators will just adjust their mirrors a little wider, while the Booleans will ultimately be just as well served by the idiot light.

  • avatar
    Carrera

    I test drove a 2015 Accord and HRV with Lane Watch and found it very distracting. I found that I wasn’t looking at the mirror anymore and just kept looking at it…and that to me is unnatural.

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      I always turn my head and look, but LW is a good “sanity check.” Only problem I have is with the one-touch signal — only three blinks, meaning the camera shuts off by the time I look back while changing lanes. (That number was adjustable to five blinks maximum on 2014+ Accords.)

  • avatar
    sirwired

    I wish they’d have both! But if Honda’s gonna choose one, BLIS makes sense. Those sensors can also do double-duty as the Rear-Cross-Traffic alert. (Certainly BLIS isn’t cheap; those sensors cost hundreds each. I know parts prices aren’t exactly the same as cost, but they are a useful proxy.)

    And, really, I’d view an attempt to squeeze into a space that is BARELY bigger than the lines as a bit over-aggressive (unless you are parking.) Certainly it’s going to cause some consternation with the driver behind you as they have to back off quickly to open up safe following distance (and doubly so since you’ll have to do the same vs. the car in front of you.)

    Drivers in Columbus must be terrible, if it’s that difficult to get somebody to let you in when you signal a lane change. (Even when I visit my folks in DC, home of the country’s worst traffic, I can usually get somebody to open up within a reasonable distance.)

    BTW if BLIS goes down, you do get an error message.

    • 0 avatar
      mwgillespie

      Come to the wonderful northland of Minnesota sometime, where drivers actually actively impede a lane change by speeding up to close a gap as soon as you put on your signal. It’s delightful.

      That behavior has lots of downstream effects, too, not the least of which is to encourage drivers to use their signal at the last possible moment so that the driver in the other lane doesn’t have time to react and close the gap.

      Merging onto the interstate is another daily exciting opportunity to take your life in your hands as drivers resolutely refuse to a) let you merge in by slowing down 1 or 2 MPH and/or b) move over one lane to free up the merge lane.

      Bitter? Me? No!

    • 0 avatar
      brandloyalty

      This could be the subject of an article by itself.

      There are two types of lane changers. One is the legit type, who really do need to prepare to exit or have entered the freeway and need to move left as they plan to go far. Sometimes drivers need to change lanes in awkward places due to legitimate mistakes, perhaps because they are on an unfamiliar road. Or no one would let them in.

      The other lane changers are the aggressive sociopaths, bullying their way forward through traffic.

      It’s difficult to tell which is which. The former suffer because of the latter. No one wants to let anyone in.

      This results in everyone merging more abruptly. Anyone leaving a safe following distance finds themselves progressively moved back in traffic as driver after driver takes the opportunity to merge in front of them. Drivers of big trucks are helpless to prevent this. Stop and go traffic lurches more abruptly and inefficiently as people try not to let gaps open. And rear enders are more common because of all this. Which frustrates traffic flow even more.

      This is one good reason to support autonomous systems.

      • 0 avatar
        stuki

        It’s also a major hurdle for autonomous cars coexisting with human piloted ones. The very predictability of the carefulness of autonomous cars, will make them perennial losers in any game of chicken. Which human drivers will quickly learn to take advantage of.

        And it’s a problem even for autonomous cars interacting with each other in an individually directed fashion, instead of being directed by a higher power. BMW’s autonomous driving researchers, are no doubt working on algorithms that help stockbrokers in their autonomous Bimmers, cut in front of soccer moms in ditto Volvos as we speak…..

        • 0 avatar
          tooloud10

          Yes, this is why I find that I cannot use dynamic cruise control in traffic. Even using the closest following distance the system allows, someone will jump into the gap and my car will slow down. Lather, rinse, repeat.

        • 0 avatar
          brandloyalty

          Cars operating autonomously will upload video to the police whenever some jerk activates their collision avoidance systems. The ticket will be in the mail.

          • 0 avatar
            tooloud10

            A system like that would be immensely overwhelmed almost immediately, and in many places (like mine) they wouldn’t even have the authority to make you pay them.

  • avatar
    Nedmundo

    Interestingly, the new Civic Si does have LaneWatch, which I liked when I tested an Si over the summer. Maybe they’re keeping it for some models that don’t have the full Honda Sensing package, which isn’t available on the Si.

  • avatar
    stuntmonkey

    I think it’s just more of a case of cost cutting. The first example of a thing is built with great quality, the iterations get better but also get paired back at the same time. If a blind spot monitor does the job for 99% of the time but costs less, then that is where it will end up. Don’t know if that is the case here, but one of the reasons Sony’s sensor division is doing so well is because of the proliferation of (multiple) cameras on cars and other devices.

    • 0 avatar
      kefkafloyd

      Phones really gave Sony’s division a boost, but they wouldn’t have gotten there without some good decision on their part that put them in position to be that supplier. Sony’s sensor division is doing well for the following reasons:

      1. They’re the leaders in the field at the moment. Exmor’s A/D column design was the right call back in 2007 and their constant iteration of that tech is what allowed them to pull ahead of Canon. It’s scaleable from the smallest phone sensors to the largest medium format. Canon only recently changed to an Exmor-style column A/D style which has narrowed the gap a bit, but they are still behind Sony in absolute IQ and on-sensor AF performance.

      2. They sell to anyone and their economies of scale enable excellent pricing. Yes, even Canon uses Sony sensors in some of their cameras, because Sony’s fab output is also industry leading. They’re the Intel of imaging sensors when it comes to fab capacity and output. Even with two bad earthquakes causing supply issues in the past five years, they’ve managed to come back from each stronger than ever. Phone sensors are far more prevalent than car sensors, but the car market certainly has room for growth.

      3. Sony isn’t afraid to eat their own lunch in terms of tech. Just because column A/D was good enough doesn’t mean they’re sitting on their laurels. Exmor RS stacked sensor tech (first developed for phones and now scaled up to full frame image size) allows for insane sensor readouts. Fast readout speed allows for all of the fancy analytical work that things like LaneWatch needs to work in real time.

      4. Optics are nothing to sneeze at. Their acquisition of Minolta IP from the mid-aughts brought a lot of know-how to their optics division along with their ongoing collaboration with Zeiss. Curved sensors will soon enable even more wacky optics tricks, enabling things like wider field of view for backup cameras with less distortion and better light gathering so they work better in the dark.

    • 0 avatar
      sirwired

      The BSI radar sensors are more expensive than the Lanewatch camera, so cost-cutting isn’t it. (Although I suppose it could be an obstacle for having both.)

  • avatar

    Interesting article.

    For a Part 2, you might want to cover “normalized” water and oil gauges, which work as glorified idiot lights.

    These types of gauges will stick at one fixed indication for anything between “barely warmed up” and “meltdown imminent.“ The reasoning, apparently, being to not spook owners by showing real-world fluctuations of temperature and pressure.

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      I’d be curious about that as well. I’ve never seen an analog temperature gauge move above the comforting dead-center, with one exception: when our 93 Civic would begin to overheat on interstate jaunts, the needle would creep towards red and that was the sign to roll all four windows down and turn the heater on. I’m pretty sure that gauge was working well because the air coming out of the cabin vents would get so hot it would make the airvent vanes painful to touch and very pliable.

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      Or you can buy an NC Miata, which has the worst of all worlds: a massively-fluctuating oil-pressure gauge that is actually relying on calculated data!

      • 0 avatar
        Middle-Aged Miata Man

        Amen to that. Even though I’m used to my NC’s quirks by now, watching the (indicated) oil pressure ping-pong back and forth in traffic remains vaguely terrifying.

        • 0 avatar
          JMII

          My Z has a similar feature and I like it. Tells me things are working vs the fake gauge which goes to “normal” and stays there until something bad happens. Oil pressure only varies by RPM – its not calculated, its real. I have a Bluetooth OBD-II interface (iPhone + Dash Command) and can watch various parameters there as well.

        • 0 avatar
          TMA1

          Haha, I had the same experience in my NC. Then I learned it was all fake anyway and decided to stop worrying about it.

    • 0 avatar
      spreadsheet monkey

      Jaguar fitted “idiot gauges” on its late 90s cars like the XK8 and XJ8. There’s a guy out there who sells conversion kits to make the gauges show actual data.

      It’s interesting that there’s enough demand among owners of a fairly niche car to actually bother with manufacturing and selling this kit.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      Very much this. My Saab-9-5 by default has a temp gauge that acts this way. But, because Saab, you can tell the computer to always show actual temps. It is AMAZING how much it moves around under perfectly normal circumstances. If they sold them this way it would have been a parade of people complaining about what is wrong with their cars.

      Ultimately, I prefer an intelligent idiot light. Today, the computer is always monitoring everything, far more frequently than I am – I am paying attention to the road, not the instrument panel as a general rule. My only complaint about my BMWs not having a temp gauge at all is that it would be nice to have an indication that the engine is warmed up enough to play. I believe Subaru uses a little blue light for that – light goes out, foot goes down. The M cars use a rotating redline indicator for this, but my plebian cars do without.

      As for all this blind-spot nonsense, I just use the mirrors. Simple, effective, cheap, and they rarely break without outside assistance.

  • avatar
    3800FAN

    In my 2016 Odyssey Lane Watch is a must have, especially for a vehicle of it’s size. I leave it on all the time and never use the side mirror anymore. It’s a shame it didn’t catch on.

    • 0 avatar
      stuki

      The “…never use the side mirror anymore….” part, may have something to do with why it was removed…….

      At some point, that big center screen taking up all that prime real estate in the “entertainment console,” will be busy showing something else.. Or, at least Honda don’t want to become so locked in to reserving it for Lanewatch, they can’t keep up with the Teslas of the world offering a 40 inch TV showing Trump’s hair there.

    • 0 avatar
      jalop1991

      We’ve had Odyssey for….16+ years now. With the mirrors set properly, we have never had a blind spot.

      The size of the Odyssey is irrelevant to the discussion.

  • avatar
    pwrwrench

    Back in the day, our shop was asked to install oil pressure gauges in cars that came with a warning light. I usually tried to dissuade people from doing this as there were nearly always problems.
    One was some gauge systems rendered the warning light inop. Some engines were ruined when the gauge was not observed to be at or near zero.
    A major headache was when drivers would soon return saying that something was wrong with their engine as the oil pressure got lower as the engine warmed up. I tried to explain that this was normal as the oil became thinner at 210 F compared to 40-60 F.
    This was frequently met with disbelief and some went on to install special oil pumps and pressure relief springs only to have the same physics assert itself.

  • avatar
    Eggshen2013

    “…and BRAKE (for low brake fluid)”
    Are you sure about that Jack?
    Isn’t that idiot light for the idiot that leaves the parking brake on while driving?

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      I can see you’ve had a very pleasant life.

      In most Seventies-and-up cars, it’s a dual-purpose light that illuminates both for parking-brake activation AND low brake fluid.

      • 0 avatar
        Eggshen2013

        So far so good, thanks Jack.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        No, when the gov’t mandated split braking systems they also mandated the pressure differential switch to illuminate the brake warning light when there was a difference in pressure between the two halves of the system. Some also connected it to the parking brake switch as well while others had separate brake warning and parking brake lights. Later some did have a fluid level sensor connected to the system once they started using plastic fluid reservoirs which for many vehicles meant the late 80’s and on.

      • 0 avatar
        pwrwrench

        Then there’s the car owners and repair/oil change shops that fill the brake fluid up without checking the pad wear or for leaks.

  • avatar
    relton

    y BMW, built back when BMW was the Ultimate Driving Machine, has only 4 gauges: speedo, tach, fuel and engine oil temperature. Coolant temperature, oil pressure, and everything else is handled with warning lights. I could do without the tach, and I have to wonder about the need for an oil temperature gauge. But a driver should be paying attention to where he’s going, not monitoring the cars mechanical systems.

    • 0 avatar
      stuki

      Oil and coolant (and transmission) temps are _very_ nice for trucks when towing heavy. Much nicer to be able to slow down, or pull over at a rest stop; rather than when lights start blinking telling you damage is imminent. In the rest of the world, where Gypsies and others somehow manage to tow their whole house along without a gargantuan diesel truck, ditto for passenger cars. In the US, where a class 4 diesel dualie is considered a minimum requirement for towing a jet ski down to the lake, passenger cars can most often do without them.

      A friend’s absolute stripper truck have a neat, cheap solution: a screen that can cycle through views for tire pressure, fuel economy, trip meters, and temp gauges. That way, you only need to dial up the virtual gauges when you feel you need them, and they are otherwise out of sight. And the whole setup is cheap, as the little 4 inch black and white screen is already there, and temp data is already available to internal engine monitoring systems.

      • 0 avatar
        TMA1

        Is that a Ford? My Mustang has a screen like that.

        • 0 avatar
          stuki

          The truck I was referring to, is a Tradesman Ram. But I suspect the rest are similar, since the fleets buying many of those, “need” to see the relevant information, yet don’t care much if it is displayed in the cheapest possible fashion.

          Interestingly, though, it seems most Ram drivers I run into, drive lower trim level trucks. Except for the Ecodiesel crowd. While most who drive Fords, are in Platinums and such.

    • 0 avatar
      zamoti

      I had a BMW (2004) that only had speedo, tach and fuel. It was really irritating on a car that was notorious for cooling system problems to be constantly guessing if something was going to blow. When stuff did let go I was typically informed by the cloud of steam erupting from under the hood.
      There was a way to show the coolant temp in the display that required a lot of fiddling with the odometer reset button and math to compute a secret code that was based in certain digits of the VIN. Not joking. Only BMW could come up with such overcomplicated garbage. Best part was that if you shut the car off, you had to do the same rain dance with that button all over again. It was not persistent. Sometimes I miss that car, but usually I do not.

  • avatar
    Rick Astley

    Gone are the days of the “DIS” warning light. Sigh, we barely knew you.

    Godspeed old friend, may the glitz and glam of the fabulous 50’s come back sooner than later.

  • avatar
    Daniel J

    I tried the lane watch by Honda a few years ago and it was not intuitive at all. I like Mazda’s simple Blind Spot Monitoring. I look in either mirror and there is a lit up icon telling me someone is in my blind spot. If I put the signal on it beeps at me if there is someone in my blind spot. Simple and easy.

    • 0 avatar
      Daniel J

      And since my edits didn’t take….

      Why would I want to look down and right when moving into a left hand lane? I’m naturally going to look out, to the left, and in the left mirror. Not down.

    • 0 avatar
      jalop1991

      “I like Mazda’s simple Blind Spot Monitoring. I look in either mirror and there is a lit up icon telling me someone is in my blind spot.”

      Or you could, you know, adjust the mirrors properly so that when you look in the mirror, you see an actual car telling you the car is in your blind spot–which isn’t a blind spot anymore.

      It works. Requires no sensors, no technology beyond the mirror. When was that invented again?

      • 0 avatar
        Middle-Aged Miata Man

        A driver shouldn’t be looking at the mirror just to see if the BSM icon is illuminated or not, but by the same token drivers should be encouraged to use all the tools available to them. Properly-aligned mirrors resolve 99.9 percent of any issues or concerns about blind spots; BSM can help fill in that remaining .1% though, and Luddites shouldn’t discount that.

        FWIW, I love the BSM system on my DD simply because it’s absolute overkill. Icons light up on the mirrors and on the HUD, helping my situational awareness, and angry beeps sound from the speakers on the respective side if I flash my turn signal or start veering towards an occupied lane. (It’s also supposed to apply opposite-side brakes to help prevent merging into another vehicle, but I haven’t wanted to test that.)

        I genuinely can’t recall the last time I failed to see a car in the “blind spot” – it’s easily been years, if not decades – but that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate everything at my disposal to prevent it from happening.

    • 0 avatar
      TMD748

      How is the LaneWatch not less/not as intuitive than the BLIS? It shows you EXACTLY what is on the right side of your vehicle – be it a car, a bicycle or some idiot running.

      Options if you are allergic to looking at things:
      – Don’t look at the monitor
      – Turn off LaneWatch

      Honda should include some kind of blind spot sensor on the driver (left) side, I’ll give you that.

  • avatar
    brandloyalty

    On the subject of instrumentation and feature proliferation I find it odd that auto journalists don’t relentlessly demand car manufacturers provide a simple means to display trouble codes. The data is RIGHT THERE but you have to buy a tool or pay a dealer to get it.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      Actually one of the earliest EFI systems, Cadillac’s Digital Fuel Injection found on the wonderful HT4100 and others did have that functionality. Simultanously press and hold a couple of buttons on the DIC or HVAC controller, depending on the application and the display would spit out any codes, both engine and body computer, and once that was done you could scroll through a number of what we now call PIDs. It’s been a while but I know you could get coolant temp, rpm, system voltage, whether the torque converter was commanded to be locked up or not, and I’m sure there are more I’m forgetting.

      In the modern times there are still a few out there that do something similar. Ford for example has a similar button push on their ETAC or DTAC systems run its self check and report codes. With their 00’s radio systems you can also have it run a self test by pushing and holding the 3&6 station preset buttons. It will then cycle through the speakers, tell you if it has communitaction with the add ons, like CD changer, rear seat entertainment, phone or sat radio modules and spit out a very limited number of codes. With our 2010 Fusion holding down the correct steering wheel control buttons while turning the key on will put the display in engineering mode that will tell you some of the codes for some of the systems.

      Ford is big on those button and/or key cycling methods as they also have them to cause the car to enter the mode to learn new tire pressure sensors or remotes, or to turn on or off auto locking.

      Some are actually called out in the owner’s manual while others are intended for the dealer mechanics.

    • 0 avatar
      sirwired

      While I’d love to have a way of displaying the trouble codes right there in the instrument panel (or the radio these days, I suppose), since it only takes a $20 scan tool from Amazon to do it instead, I don’t get too worked up about it.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        Yeah the cheap adapters and a phone can do a lot. If you have a Ford spend a little more on the adapter and get the FORScan app and you can do pretty much everything the factory tool does.

      • 0 avatar
        brandloyalty

        Yes, I have one of those from a previous vehicle. It doesn’t work with the vehicle I have now. An onboard display would be somewhat less likely to be rendered useless by compatibility issues. If you don’t like the idea of an integrated display, you are free to ignore it and use the $20 tool instead.

  • avatar
    srh

    I love my cars’ cameras. In the summertime. Every November as the rains return to the Pacific NW I get re-acquainted with the mirrors, as the backup cameras are inevitably doused with rainwater, making them virtually useless, or snow, making them completely useless.

    Perhaps the in-mirror cameras of lanewatch don’t suffer the same fate. I hope not. But the backup camera problem has made me quite a bit more cautious of nice features that cause people to forget how to use mirrors.

    That said, I do love the 360 camera on my 4-series (well, it’s more like a 270 camera; inexplicably the area ahead of the front bumper is not included). For low-speed maneuvers, like trying to back out of my garage when it’s full of boxes from Black Friday splurges, it’s super handy.

  • avatar
    Driver8

    Or they could design cars with proper outward visibility. The best car I’ve driven in this regard was an early nineties Integra.

    The nerd in me likes a real gauge, plus a light and maybe a buzzer for SHTF situations .

  • avatar
    sgeffe

    This IS available in Canada on lower-trim models—Sport 1.5 and up to the Touring, which gets BSI. BSI in our US EX 1.5 and up.

    Wish they would have left that on all trims here in the US; hell, I’ll have to “wean off” it for a month before I trade up, if I have that choice. The cameras can’t be THAT much more, and it’s a few lines of code to include the calibration and display routines in the infotainment. (They’re obviously sourcing a turn-signal stalk with the manual toggle button for the Canucks, too.)

    Of course, you can’t get a normal EX up there (no leather), either!

  • avatar
    earthwateruser

    “Hell, if I had my way you’d have LaneWatch on both sides, depending on which way you flicked the turn-signal lever.”

    Exactly! I thought lane-watch seemed like a solid idea, but I could never figure out why Honda didn’t have it for both sides. If anything, my driver side visibility is more obstructed by the B and C pillars than the passenger side view. I guess Honda figured looking to the right (screen) while changing lanes to the left was too confusing? Honda only stuck the tip in when they should have gone balls deep and put it on both sides.

    • 0 avatar
      edu8rdo

      I agree. The system seemed unbalanced by having it on only one side. The best argument, and the one I’ve rationalized as best was that the LW was/is meant to be a secondary option to the driver’s own eyes. That works only when the driver’s head is turned the direction they are looking.

    • 0 avatar
      TMD748

      Unless you implement a second screen on the driver’s side (somehow), a left side LaneWatch is counter-intuitive. For right turns, you’d be looking in the same general direction. For left turns, it would be odd to look at a right screen while turning left.

      LW or BLIS SHOULD be a secondary safety feature that do not replace mirror and shoulder check.

  • avatar
    edu8rdo

    My wife and I agree on virtually nothing when it comes to cars – the ONE thing we did/do/have consistently agreed on though is how much we miss not having a LW-like system in our Jeep.

  • avatar
    George B

    I like LaneWatch on my 2014 Accord. It’s most useful in heavy traffic when cars suddenly slow down in front and you want to see if you can safely pass on the right. It’s helped me see dark cars on my right driving without lights that were very hard to see through the window tint.

    LaneWatch would be better if it stayed on split screen during parallel parking. It’s annoying to have the backup camera completely preempt the side camera that shows the curb.

  • avatar
    phaedrus528

    Have driven with Lane watch. My 2017 Mazda3 has BLIS. Prefer the latter. Need the left side, too! You can see the light in the mirror in your peripheral and the beep helps as well. I spend LOTS of time on LA freeways and am loving the BLIS!

  • avatar
    Griffin Mill

    Honda Lane Watch is probably my favorite feature on my wife’s 2014 Crosstour (it sure isn’t the styling). I was somewhat surprised as well that Honda has decided to retire the feature. I heard a Rep from Honda on Autoline After Hours say that their research showed customers considered Blind Spot Monitoring to be the more “upscale” feature when compared to Lane Watch. I think this was a P.R. written response.

    • 0 avatar
      Middle-Aged Miata Man

      Not necessarily, and it may come down to something as simple as promoting the feeling of automotive one-upmanship.

      The surrounding plebes in traffic can’t see your LaneWatch screen… but they can see the BSM lights pop up on your mirrors.

  • avatar
    DavesNotHere

    You hit a really important point, Jack, about the chronic lack of dealer support and explanation during the customer handoff. Even a problem with many luxury brands, and it’s only getting worse as cars get more and more complex, but the dealers are just handing off the keys like it’s the Mad Men Era.

    • 0 avatar
      jalop1991

      “but the dealers are just handing off the keys like it’s the Mad Men Era.”

      So where in your talk is anything about the owner’s responsibility to get to know the features of his car??

      It’s not the dealer’s obligation to show the owner anything, and it is 100% the owner’s obligation to get to understand the features. And yet, how many owners have you run into that have said, “I’ve never read the manual. It’s so confusing, and besides, I know how to drive a car”???

      Hint: all of them. They’re all over every car forum on the net. You see stupid questions from people who spent $50K of their money on that shiny new toy 6 months ago, and now they want to know what that light is on the dashboard (the maintenance light)–and they post publicly, with no shame whatsoever, expecting that the world will spoon feed them.

      Years ago I saw the stupidest thing in PriusChat–it was a whole thread about that red button thing above where you pull to open the door from the inside. These morons apparently had never read their manuals, and never owned a car before–and had no idea that the door might have a manual lock button. They were so enamored of their keyless entry/start system, they couldn’t imagine what that red button thingy could possibly be.

      And they weren’t embarrassed at all. They were giggling.

      People are morons.

  • avatar

    I manually activate LaneWatch in my ’15 Fit fairly often when I’m in urban traffic. Even in normal use, I’ve gotten used to sweeping my eyes across the video screen as I go to check my side mirror.

    I’d like to be able to install the left side mirror/camera from a RHD Fit to be able to check both blind spots but getting it to work would be a chore because everything is digital and logic circuits today. I’d probably have to find where the wiring is from the right side camera, before it enters any control electronics, and hook up a selector switch upstream of the electronics. If the switching is done with a relay one could probably get it to work when the left turn signal is on too.

  • avatar
    rpn453

    I’m surprised this is such a popular feature among those who have it. I recall derision in car reviews when it was released, and I figured it would be something I’d dislike; I despise any sort of unnecessary animation in my peripheral vision when I’m trying to focus. But maybe they just needed more time with it and it actually is a useful tool once you’ve adapted your lane changing routine to accommodate it. Once it’s familiar enough to no longer be a distraction, I could see how a glance at the screen while looking over to the side mirror or after might give a person a little more detail and confidence about what’s happening beside him.

    I drove a Chevette for a couple of years as a teenager, and it had no passenger side mirror. Overall visibility in that car was excellent though, so I simply got used to turning my head a little further and seeing first-hand whether there were any vehicles beside me. I stay fully aware of all traffic around me with frequent glances at the available mirrors, so I was never surprised by a fast-moving vehicle on the right and it didn’t even seem like a possibility that I could miss one. Not too many drivers were ever going faster than me at that time anyway. I concluded that passenger side mirrors were just a source of unnecessary weight and aerodynamic drag.

    After that, I actually had to re-train myself to glance at the passenger side mirror at the start of a shoulder check during a lane change. For me, it’s really just a final check on the way to my shoulder check, to ensure that a vehicle isn’t speeding up on that side. I never eliminated the habit of looking far enough back to see anything even close to the back of my car on the right. I’m just more comfortable confirming the open space that way, and I tend to be much more conservative about lane changes in vehicles where I truly need the mirror for a full view.

    Despite that now-unnecessary degree of head movement, I do appreciate having the passenger side view mirror as well. So I suppose even my luddite self can understand how Lane Watch might be useful as an additional confirmation. But it’s not something I’d pay extra for. I would, however, pay extra for, or simply choose, a vehicle with good outward visibility.

  • avatar
    mouton

    I’m considering buying a new HR-V. I’ve had lanewatch since 2015 and i don’t want to give it up. Do I need to get the 2018 HR-V or will it still be available on the 2019’s? I saw the the new Honda Insight for 2019 with have the lanewatch. Is there hope that they’ve had so many complaints that it’s staying?

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