Hands-free driving has garnered a lot of attention since Tesla debuted Autopilot. This AI technology is a driver-assist tool, not a self-driving fully autonomous solution. But it is a step in that direction.
In the Fall of 2020, Ford Motor Company announced that it would make hand-free driving technology available on its 2021 Ford F-150 models equipped with the available Ford Co-Pilot360 Active 2.0 Prep Package via Over-the-Air Update (OTA). This will demonstrate OTA’s capability to help improve vehicles over time and keep customers at the forefront of technology.
Ford will begin offering its new BlueCruise hands-free highway driving system to customers later this year after 500,000 miles of development testing and fine-tuning the technology on a journey across the U.S. and Canada. Five F-150 pickups were sent on a route that covered more than 110,000 miles through 37 states and five Canadian provinces to test BlueCruise in a wide range of road, weather and traffic conditions.
“There are highway intricacies and driving conditions that you simply cannot replicate in a lab,” says Hau Thai-Tang, Ford chief product platform and operations officer. “Sending these vehicles out for real-world driving experience is just one of the many ways we ensured that BlueCruise technology offers confidence for drivers all across the continent.”
How it works
BlueCruise uses an advanced camera and radar-sensing technologies. It builds upon the available Intelligent Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop-and-Go, Lane Centering and Speed Sign Recognition. BlueCruise allows you to operate your vehicle hands-free while the driver is monitored by a driver-facing camera to make sure eyes are focused on the road. Drivers will be notified by visual prompts on their instrument cluster when they need to return their attention to the road or resume control of the vehicle.Ford Motor Company
BlueCruise is available when you operate the vehicle in a prequalified Hands-Free Blue Zone. Currently, this includes more than 100,000 miles of highways that have been entered into the Ford GPS mapping system. BlueCruise uses blue lighting on the digital instrument cluster to indicate when the vehicle is in a hands-free zone. Ford plans to offer regular mapping updates as new roads are added.
In addition to the full Hands-Free mode, the F-150 models with BlueCruise will also feature Lane Centering mode. Lane Centering works on most roads with lane lines and can help keep the vehicle centered in its lane. This mode does require drivers to keep their hands on the steering wheel. In either Hands-Free of Lane Centering mode, a visual prompt on the instrument panel notifies drivers when they need to return their attention to the road and resume control of the vehicle.
BlueCruise is an SAE Level 2 driver-assist technology, similar to Tesla Autopilot. It has the advantage of offering a hands-free driving experience while in Hands-Free mode that does not require a driver’s hands to stay in contact with the steering wheel, unless prompted by vehicle alerts.
Future planned enhancements include Lane Change Assist that will let the vehicle change lanes with just the tap of the turn signal indicator and Predictive Speed Assist that will adjust vehicle speed for road curves, roundabouts and more.
Owners of 2021 Ford F-150 pickup trucks already equipment with Co-Pilot 360 Active 2.0 will be able to purchase BlueCruise software – including a three-year service period – for $600 in the second half of 2021, when it’s ready to launch. Currently Co-Pilot360 Active 2.0 is standard on the F-150 Limited and is available as an option on Lariat, King Ranch and Platinum models.