Ford brings hands-free driving technology to UK motorways

Carmaker Ford has announced what it calls a watershed moment for drivers as the company’s all-electric Mustang Mach-E SUV became the first vehicle to launch a Level 2 hands-free advanced driver assistance system, with regulatory approval for use on the public highway network of a European country.

It says a green light for Ford BlueCruise technology from the UK’s Department for Transport means drivers of enabled Mustang Mach-E models can now use “hands-off, eyes-on” driving technology on 2,300 miles of pre-mapped motorways in England, Scotland and Wales, designated as Blue Zones.

Ford explains BlueCruise takes driver comfort and advanced driver assistance safety benefits to the next level. The system monitors road markings, speed signs and evolving traffic conditions to control steering, acceleration, braking and lane positioning, as well as to maintain safe and consistent distances to vehicles ahead – right down to a complete halt in traffic jams.

In addition, sophisticated infrared camera technology continually checks driver attentiveness for the safety of drivers, passengers and other road users. 

Owners of Ford Mustang Mach-E model year 2023 vehicles in Great Britain are the first to be able to activate BlueCruise via subscription. The first 90 days are included with the vehicle purchase and, thereafter, a £17.99 monthly subscription provides the flexibility to cover extended road trips and holidays and enable the advanced driver assistance system around anticipated vehicle use.

Fine-tuned to deliver an intuitive and confidence-inspiring experience during more than 600,000 miles of Ford advanced driver assistance system testing globally, BlueCruise is a significant milestone in Ford’s journey to establishing leadership positions in mobility solutions.

“It is great news that Ford has chosen the Great Britain for the European launch of their BlueCruise technology, and I am delighted that this country is once more at the forefront of innovation,” said Jesse Norman, UK Transport Minister. “The latest advanced driver assistance systems make driving smoother and easier, but they can also make roads safer by reducing scope for driver error.”

Ford expects BlueCruise to be activated in further European countries as and when regulatory conditions permit, and will roll out the system to further Ford vehicles in the coming years.

In a statement, Ford gave details of how BlueCruise works:

BlueCruise builds on the capabilities of Ford’s Intelligent Adaptive Cruise Control (IACC), 2 which can automatically keep pace with traffic within legal speed limits, right down to a complete halt. Hands-free mode allows drivers on approved Blue Zone sections of motorway to drive with their hands off the steering wheel if they continue to pay attention to the road ahead – granting an additional level of comfort during long drives. 

Once a pre-qualified road is identified and IACC is engaged, BlueCruise-equipped vehicles sense and help confirm that lane markings are visible, that the driver has their eyes on the road and that other conditions are appropriate before transitioning to hands-free driving. The system uses animated cluster transitions featuring text and blue lighting cues to communicate that the feature is in hands-free mode, effective even for those with colour blindness. 

Operating up to a maximum speed of 80 mph, BlueCruise uses five radars to detect and track the position and speed of other vehicles on the road. A forward-facing camera detects lane markings and speed signs and, crucially, the system also uses an infrared driver-facing camera located below the instrument cluster to check the driver’s eye gaze and head pose – even when they are wearing sunglasses – and ensure their attention remains focused on the road.

If the system detects driver inattention, warning messages are first displayed in the instrument cluster, followed by audible alerts, brake activations, and finally slowing of the vehicle while maintaining steering control. Similar actions are performed if the driver fails to place their hands back on the steering wheel when prompted when leaving a Blue Zone.  

Ford is also working with regulatory authorities and exploring opportunities to deliver BlueCruise via a future Ford Power-Up software update to Mustang Mach-E models built prior to 2023 and equipped with the optional Tech Pack or Tech Pack +.

“The Mother of All Road Trips”

Ford engineers undertook 100,000 miles of testing on European roads to validate latest-generation advanced driver assistance systems including BlueCruise and its supporting features, in addition to over 600,000 miles covered in the US and Canada before the system was introduced to those markets last year. Validation drives in Great Britain helped prove out the ability to handle circumstances drivers encounter every day, such as worn-out lane markings, poor weather and roadworks.

“There’s a good reason why Ford BlueCruise is the first hands-free driving system to be cleared for use in a European country: We’ve proven beyond doubt that it can support the driver while also ensuring that they keep their eyes on the road for their safety and that of their passengers while the system is active. That means BlueCruise can make other road users’ journeys more comfortable too,” said Torsten Wey, manager, Advanced Driver Assistance Systems, Ford Europe.

Drivers of more than 190,000 Ford and Lincoln vehicles have since engaged in more than 60 million miles of BlueCruise-enabled  hands-free driving in the US and Canada. BlueCruise was also recently named the Consumer Reports Top Rated Active Driving Assistance System in the US.

BlueCruise is the latest addition to the Mustang Mach-E’s suite of technologies that also includes Pre‑Collision Assist, Active Park Assist 2.0 and Ford’s SYNC 4A connectivity system supported by a 15.5-inch touchscreen.

In addition, Ford Power-Up software updates can use the connectivity provided by the FordPass Connect modem to continuously improve the vehicle and add new features without leaving home.

Offering up to 372 miles pure-electric driving range between charges and supported by Ford’s BlueOval Charging Network – Europe’s largest, with more than 450,000 chargers and growing – the Mustang Mach-E is among nine all-electric vehicles Ford plans to offer in Europe by 2024. Ford plans to achieve zero emissions for all vehicle sales and carbon neutrality across its European footprint of facilities, logistics and suppliers by 2035.

Watch more here:

(Picture – Ford)


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