BlueCruise is Ford’s new hands-free driving aid


Man with facial hair drives without hands.


Ford

Ford is looking to make long drives just a little easier with its new BlueCruise driving aid. Similar to GM’s groundbreaking Super Cruise, this hands-free technology promises to work on more than 100,000 miles of premapped, divided highway in the US and Canada.

BlueCruise is an evolution of Ford’s Co-Pilot 360, the automaker’s suite of advanced driver aids. Building on the hardware and software that enables adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go capability as well as lane centering, it allows you to drive on select roads, so-called Blue Zones, without your hands on the steering wheel. To be clear, this is not an autonomous technology; the driver still has to pay attention to surrounding traffic and be ready to resume control at a moment’s notice. Accordingly, BlueCruise is classified as an SAE Level 2 driving aid.

Ensuring you’re actively monitoring your surroundings this system includes a driver-facing camera that tracks you head position and eye gaze, just like Super Cruise. And if you’re concerned about privacy, you shouldn’t be. “Driver data only stays in the camera,” Karen Sullivan, marketing manager for Ford Co-Pilot 360 said in an interview Tuesday. Unlike GM’s rival technology, BlueCruise does not feature multicolor steering wheel-mounted lights to indicate the system’s status. Instead, Ford’s solution uses blue-hued visual cues in the digital instrument cluster to let the driver know they’re in an area where the system can be activated. Supposedly, this approach is better for people with colorblindness. Of course, if you’re not in a designated Blue Zone, you can still use adaptive cruise control with lane centering, your grubby paws just have to be on the steering wheel.

Thanks to fancy animations in the instrument cluster, it should be obvious when you’re in a so-called Blue Zone and can use BlueCruise.


Ford

Putting BlueCruise through the wringer, Ford engineers subjected the technology to more than 500,000 miles of testing to ensure it works safely. “This was a very aggressive test program,” said Michael Kane, engineering supervisor for Ford Co-Pilot 360. Fine tuning everything, last November and December Ford put five F-150 pickups and five Mustang Mach-E SUVs on an epic drive dubbed the Mother of All Road Trips, MOART for short. In total, this cross-continent trip covered more than 110,000 miles of highway in 37 states and five Canadian provinces. During testing, engineers collected mountains of data and subjected the system to all kinds of weather and lighting conditions as well as a vast array of different road surfaces and designs. More refinements are being made to BlueCruise, but MOART was really the final leg of this product’s development.

So far, so good. But what vehicles will BlueCruise be offered on and when does it launch? Well, this hands-free driving aid is available on select versions the 2021 F-150 and 2021 Mustang Mach-E. On the truck, BlueCruise comes standard on the high-level Limited model, but it’s available on Lariat, King Ranch and Platinum trims if you order the Ford Co-Pilot 360 Active 2.0 Prep Package, which stickers for $995. As for the Mach-E, this technology is included on CA Route 1, Premium and First Edition models at no extra charge, but buyers of the Select trim can also get it if they nab the $2,600 prep kit.

But to enjoy BlueCruise, you’ll have to shell out an additional $600 for a three-year service period, something you’ll be able to pay for in the second half of the year. On F-150s that brings the total price to $1,595. If the Mach-E floats your boat, you’ll be paying up to $3,200 for this feature. In the third quarter of 2021, BlueCruise will be enabled via an over-the-air software update, meaning owners of vehicles sold months ago will be able to enjoy this fancy new technology. The automaker is aiming to sell more than 100,000 vehicles with BlueCruise in the first year it’s available, a significant milestone. In comparison, GM has had Super Cruise in its back pocket for years and is only just starting to make it available on a range of models. Of course, Ford’s new hands-free driving aid is slated to be offered on additional vehicles in the coming years. New features will be supported, too, including things like automatic lane changes and something called Predictive Speed Assist, which adjusts vehicle velocity for road curves. At launch, you won’t be able to use BlueCruise while towing, but it sounds like this feature will also be enabled in the future. Stay tuned for more information as Ford rolls out this exciting new driver aid.


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