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Spotlight On: Honda LaneWatch

by Andrew Ganz

We take a peek at Honda\'s take on helping drivers monitor their blind spot.

Ever the innovator, Honda has come up with a new, less expensive way of keeping drivers apprised of a vehicle in their blind spot. The technology debuted for 2013 as an option on the Honda Accord.

Of course, we had to check it out.

Honda also now offers LaneWatch on its Accord-based Crosstour. Other Honda vehicles will likely gain the tech in the near future. Notably, vehicles made by Honda's luxury brand - Acura - use a conventional blind spot monitoring system.

LaneWatch vs. conventional blind spot monitors

An increasingly large number of vehicles are now offered with blind spot monitoring systems that flash a light to alert you that another car is driving in your over-the-shoulder dead zone. This technology debuted back in 2007 on the Volvo S80, but it has rapidly arrived on other vehicles.

While the system used on Volvos and other vehicles relies on a pair of sensors typically mounted to both exterior review mirrors, Honda takes a simpler, more cost-effective approach. Naturally, this has both upsides and downsides.

Honda mounts a single camera on the passenger side exterior mirror pointing to where a driver's blind spot would typically be. Although careful mirror adjustment in any car can nearly eliminate the blind spot entirely, industry-wide increasingly large roof pillars (to satisfy safety standards) and high decklids (which improve aerodynamics and save fuel) have made blind spots harder to overcome.

The camera sends a live feed to the car's large, dashboard-mounted LCD screen. Mounted on the end of the turn signal stalk is a button that toggles between constantly showing the camera feed or showing it only when the right turn signal is activated. Yellow and red lines also give a scale of how far away the car in the next lane is.

In addition, the camera can be turned off entirely through the vehicle's infotainment screen.

While LaneWatch is undoubtedly flashier than that used on rival vehicles, it also saves Honda - and, presumably, the customer - some money since fewer parts are involved. Conventional systems like Volvo's rely on lights either mounted to the vehicle's front pillars or in the rearview mirror assemblies, and they use two sensors instead of just one camera. LaneWatch uses significantly fewer parts - just a single camera and some wiring.

On the other hand, the LaneWatch forces a compromise since it only displays blind spot information for the passenger's side. Honda says that it didn't want to include a second camera since it wouldn't be intuitive for drivers to look to their right to check out their left blind spot. We agree with this notion.

In addition, most of Honda's newer products - including those with LaneWatch - feature what the automaker bills is an "expanded view" driver's side mirror that offers a wide angle curve at its outer edge.

Honda has released a video that gives a very basic overview of LaneWatch.

Real world test

Since the Accord's LCD screen is mounted high on the dashboard, it allows drivers to quickly - and safely - give it a glance while on the go. A large obstruction like a vehicle should be immediately visible.

Although the picture quality is hardly high definition, it does give a clear enough view of the car's blind spot regardless of sunlight conditions. At night, we found LaneWatch arguably more effective since a vehicle's lights were very easy to see.

Over the course of a week in our Accord test vehicle, we quickly got used to glancing at the LCD screen before attempting to move into another lane.

We didn't like having the screen up at all times, although we contend that there might be some high traffic situations where being able to constantly view a car behind you is desirable.

On the downside, LaneWatch takes up the entire LCD screen, so any audio or navigation functions that were displayed there disappear while the camera is active. This is hardly a convenience for drivers, but passengers flipping through radio stations or programming an entry into the navigation system were often mildly irritated by the changing screen.

Also, LaneWatch doesn't audibly alert drivers if they start to move into an occupied lane the way some blind spot monitors do.

Leftlane's bottom line

Is LaneWatch a replacement for a blind spot monitor? Not quite, but it's an interesting effort that will probably impress buyers in the showroom.

Although we're still bigger fans of defensive driving - which includes properly adjusting outside mirrors - we've grown used to the prevalence of blind spot monitors in new vehicles. As a result, we're used to having sensors on either side of the vehicle alert us of an occupied lane. Since LaneWatch only keeps track of the passenger side, its usefulness is comparatively limited.

That said, Honda has so far been aggressive about including LaneWatch at a price point where most competitors don't offer a blind spot monitor. Given the value equation, LaneWatch strikes us as a solid effort.

Leftlane's Spotlight On series aims to provide new car shoppers with an in-depth look and critical evaluation of new technologies and features. Since high-tech items tend to evolve quickly, it is important to note that the information presented here is accurate as of the publish date above.