Ford Motor Co. joined the ranks of automakers with semi-autonomous technology for limited use, debuting its new BlueCruise hands-free driving technology.
The new technology will be available on 2021 Ford F-150 and Mustang Mach-E models equipped with the Ford Co-Pilot360 Active 2.0 package. However, it will cost an additional $600 when it’s installed via an over-the-air update when it becomes available during the third quarter of this year. It’s a three-year subscription. The prep package costs $1,595 for the F-150 and $2,600 for the Mach-E.
Ford officials said the technology will be available on about 100,000 miles of divided highways in the U.S. when it becomes active this fall. The company hopes to get 100,000 buyers for its new semi-autonomous package in its first year.
What is it?
Calling it the next stage of its Co-Pilot360 technology, BlueCruise uses advanced camera and radar technologies to allow drivers to take their hands off the wheel in “safe” areas. To ensure drivers are using the technology properly, vehicles with the technology have a driver-facing camera that tracks the driver’s eyes to ensure they’re looking at the road.
Reportedly similar to Tesla’s Autopilot and General Motors Super Cruise, available on several Cadillac and GMC models as well as the new Chevrolet Bolt EVs, BlueCruise is an evolution of intelligent adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go, lane centering and speed sign recognition.
Ford officials were tight-lipped about the system’s full capabilities during an advanced conference call about the new technology so it’s uncertain if BlueCruise will change lanes or if it can exit a divided highway as part of the navigation to the driver’s destination.
Drivers can use the technology in what Ford describes as Hands-Free Blue Zones. The vehicle will notify the driver that they are in a zone, offering them the option to activate the technology with a button available on the vehicle’s touchscreen.
Officials noted that’s more than a hands-free system, offering proactive advanced driver assistance technology, such as lane centering. It works on most roads with clear, visible lane lines, but it also requires the driver to keep their hands on the wheels at all times.
What is MOART?
Automakers don’t just roll out a new technology without it going though substantial testing and BlueCruise was certainly put through its paces. Ford engineers took the technology on the Mother of All Road Trips, or MOART.
The goal was to ensure it faced as many situations involving traffic, road conditions and weather as possible, officials confirmed during the call, noting that with about 600,000 miles of testing, including 110,000 traveled under the name of MOART that teams were still out putting it through its paces now.
The road trip encompassed parts of the 37 U.S. states and five Canadian provinces. In all, 10 vehicles were tested: five F-150s and five Mach-Es. These are the first two vehicles getting BlueCruise, but Ford mentions it will be available on additional vehicles in the future.