Ford has been hyping this since last year, but Wednesday it said its Level 2 semiautonomous driving system is finally coming to many 2021 Mustang Mach-Es and 2021 Ford F-150s via over-the-air software update later this year. It’s called BlueCruise. It’s probably just as problematic as other Level 2 systems.
Ford says that it tested BlueCruise on five F-150s and five Mustang Mach-Es on over 500,000 miles of roads in 37 states in the U.S. and five provinces in Canada.
Here’s how it works, according to Ford:
Using both advanced camera and radar-sensing technologies and building upon Intelligent Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop-and-Go, Lane Centering and Speed Sign Recognition, BlueCruise adds a new level of convenience for drivers with vehicles equipped with Ford Co-Pilot360 Technology. The feature allows a driver to operate truly hands-free on prequalified sections of divided highways called Hands-Free Blue Zones. A driver-facing camera in the instrument cluster monitors eye gaze and head position to help ensure the driver’s eyes remain on the road.
Currently, more than 100,000 miles of highways across North America are dedicated Hands-Free Blue Zones in 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.
In addition to the full hands-free mode, equipped vehicles 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 but requires drivers to keep their hands on the steering wheel. In either mode, a visual prompt on the instrument cluster notifies drivers when they need to return their attention to the road or resume control of the vehicle.
Ford says that BlueCruise is better than Tesla’s Autopilot because it offers a true hands-free mode, and it’s better than GM’s Super Cruise and Autopilot because it has better visual cues. BlueCruise will cost $600 for the software and more for the hardware, and only available on certain trims of the F-150 and Mustang Mach-E, or the ones that have Ford Co-Pilot 360 Active 2.0.
Ford says that it will also be expanding the miles of roads that are Hands-Free Blue Zones, and eventually offering an automated lane-changing feature in the future. That’s in addition to something called Predictive Speed Assist that will “adjust vehicle speed for road curves, roundabouts and more.”
All these different technologies and brand names and pricing structures — Volvo, Land Rover, Polestar, Mazda, GM, Kia, Ford, Jaguar, Lexus, Toyota, Hyundai, Nissan, BMW, Ram, Subaru, Porsche, Infiniti, Lincoln, Maserati, Mercedes, Audi, Genesis, Honda, and Tesla all offer some kind of stop-and-go semiautonomous tech in their vehicles — sort of remind me of the cell phone landscape in the ’90s and ’00s.
The winner, like then, will be the company that produces autonomous tech that is simple and easy to understand and operate and just works, like when Apple released the first iPhone and said, “This is The Phone.” Tesla stans will argue that Tesla has already done that, but a lot of other people would beg to differ. I’m not even talking about a Level 5 system, which may just be vaporware. Give me Level 4, like Waymo has in Arizona, and don’t give it a stupid or misleading name. I don’t expect a company in Michigan to be the ones that do this.