Ford has announced BlueCruise, a hands-free driving mode available for Mustang Mach-E and F-150 models, that's aiming to take on Tesla and Elon Musk's AutoPilot. The storied automaker is betting buyers of the 2021 Ford F-150 and 2021 Mustang Mach-E are willing to shell out $600 for a three-year subscription plus equipment fees for its new BlueCruise product.
Designated as a Level 2 driver-assist system, BlueCruise uses radar-sensing technology, building on the brand’s intelligent adaptive cruise control. So not only will it keep you in your lane, it will maintain an appropriate distance and brake accordingly. That doesn’t mean you’re off the hook and can take a nap, however: vehicles with BlueCruise are required to have a driver-facing camera so the system can monitor eye gaze and head position. If you’re not paying adequate attention to the road, the vehicle will register its displeasure with visual alerts.
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BlueCruise is the next logical step from the brand’s Co-Pilot360, Ford’s driver-assist suite. Now drivers will be able to relax their fingers, hands and arms in “Hands-Free Blue Zones,” which are already mapped out in the GPS. With a blue light, the system prompts the driver that it can take over on that particular stretch of roadway. While lane change assist isn’t currently part of the offering, Ford says drivers will be able to pass or change lanes by activating the turn signal. Once it is available, over-the-air updates will add it to its functionality.
After living in Atlanta for ten years and fighting nightmarish stop and go traffic for a couple of hours every day, I could see this being a significant amenity.
The Blue Oval isn’t pulling any punches, either, proclaiming the new feature’s advantages over GM’s Super Cruise and Tesla’s Autopilot. BlueCruise serves up text and blue lighting cues to show the driver when it’s active, which is helpful if you are challenged with color blindness (GM uses red and green, which are problematic in that case). And it’s completely hands free, giving it an edge over Tesla.
“BlueCruise gets Ford into the emerging hands-free highway driving space with a system that appears to have a price advantage over GM's Super Cruise,” said AutoPacifica Vice President, Industry Analysis Ed Kim. “With BlueCruise priced so affordably, there will be much more consumer exposure to true hands-free highway driving. Ultimately, BlueCruise with its affordable pricing could act as a catalyst for autonomous drive technology adoption that so many in the auto industry have been working towards.”
Ford’s engineers tested BlueCruise exhaustively, running five 2021 Ford F-150s and five 2021 Mustang Mach-Es for 500,000 miles even before a 110,000-mile “Mother of All Road Trips” journey through 37 states and five Canadian provinces. From Ford’s headquarters in Dearborn, driver-assist technology supervisor Justin Teems monitored the trek, collecting data on performance on disparate roads in various road conditions.
“It was like mission control,” driver-assist technology supervisor Justin Teems said in a press release. “We really wanted to push BlueCruise to its limits. Every state builds roads a little differently. When you include factors like lane line degradation, weather and construction, building a hands-free driving system becomes extremely complex.”
This technology requires specific hardware that costs $995 on an F-150 as part of a Co-Pilot 360 Active 2.0 package (included on the F-150 Limited and optional in Lariat, King Ranch and Platinum models). Mach-E buyers will find BlueCruise standard on California Route 1, Premium, and First Edition variants. It’s also available as a $2,600 option on Select trims. The three-year $600 subscription price is an additional cost on all trim levels.
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Kristin Shaw is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas. You'll find more of her work at The Drive, TODAY and KristinVShaw.com.