FORD has delivered a watershed moment in the future of autonomous vehicles with the introduction of a Level 2 hands-free advanced driver assistance systemwith regulatory approval for use on the motorway network in Great Britain - the first system of its kind approved in Europe.
Drivers of 193,000 BlueCruise-equipped Ford and Lincoln vehicles have already driven more than 64 million hands-free miles in Canada and the US, where the BlueCruise system has been rated as the top active driving assistance set up at the moment.
Now, a green light for Ford BlueCruisetechnology from the Department for Transport in the UK means drivers of enabled MustangMach-E models can use "hands-off, eyes-on" driving technology on 2,300 miles of pre-mapped motorways in England, Scotland and Wales,which have been designated as Blue Zones.
BlueCruise takes the comfort and convenience benefits of advanced driver assistance 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, infrared camera technology continually checks driver attentiveness for safety and confidence.
"It's not every day that you can say you've placed one foot in the future, but Ford BlueCruise becoming the first hands-free driving system of its kind to receive approval for use in a European country is a significant step forward for our industry," said Martin Sander, general manager, Ford Model e, Europe.
"Modern highways can be demanding even for the most confident drivers and intimidating for many. BlueCruise can do some of the ‘heavy lifting', to make highway driving less of a chore, and give drivers that little extra confidence and convenience."
Owners of Ford Mustang Mach-E model year 2023 vehiclesin 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.
"Today marks a significant moment for our industry as Ford BlueCruise becomes the first hands-free driving system of its kind to receive approval for use in Great Britain," said Lisa Brankin, managing director, Ford UK and Ireland. "We have always strived to make technology accessible for our customers, and BlueCruise is this next step on this journey, making motorway driving a more comfortable experience."
Jesse Norman, UK Transport Minister, said: "It is great news that Ford has chosen us for the European launch of its BlueCruise technology, and I am delighted that this country is once more at the forefront of innovation."
"The latest advanced driver assistance systems make driving smoother and easier, but they can also help 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.
BlueCruise builds on the capabilities of Ford's Intelligent Adaptive Cruise Control 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.
Before transitioning to hands-free driving, BlueCruise-equipped vehicles confirm that lane markings are visible, that the driver has their eyes on the road and that other conditions are appropriate. 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 a combination of radars and cameras 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.
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 equipped with the optional Tech Pack or Tech Pack + and built prior to 2023.
BlueCruise is the latest addition to the Mustang Mach-E's suite of technologies that also includes preâcollision assist, active park assistand Ford's SYNC 4A connectivity systemoperated via a 15.5-inch touchscreen.
Offering up to 372 miles pure-electric driving rangebetween charges 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.