Today [13 April 2023], Ford has launched a Level 2 autonomous hands-free driver assistance system, called Ford BlueCruise, which it says is the first to receive regulatory approval for use on a public highway in Europe.
The system was launched using an all-electric Ford Mustang Mach-E SUV and has been given the green light from the Department for Transport (DfT).
According to Ford, Mustang Mach-E models fitted with the system can begin using the “hands-off, eyes-on” technology on 2,300 miles of pre-mapped motorways across Great Britain. These will act as designated “Blue Zones”.
The system uses a forward-facing camera to monitor road markings, speed signs and evolving traffic conditions to control steering, acceleration, braking and lane positioning. It was also designed to constantly maintain safe distances with the vehicles ahead.
What’s more, infrared camera technology has been put in place to monitor driver attentiveness to ensure vehicles are being safely operated. If the system detects inattention, warning messages are first displayed, followed by audible alerts, brake activations, with the vehicle finally slowing down while maintaining steering control.
Ford has made the technology available via subscription for owners of Ford Mustang Mach-E model year 2023 vehicles 4 in Great Britain.
“It is great news that Ford has chosen Great Britain for the European launch of their BlueCruise technology, and I am delighted that this country is once more at the forefront of innovation,” said Jesse Norman, UK transport minister.
“The latest advanced driver assistance systems make driving smoother and easier, but they can also 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.
Once a pre-qualified road is identified and IACC is engaged, BlueCruise-equipped vehicles sense and help confirm that lane markings are visible, that the driver has their eyes on the road and that other conditions are appropriate before transitioning to hands-free driving. 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.
System development saw Ford engineers undertake 100,000 miles (160,934 kilometres) of testing on European roads to validate the technology, according to the car manufacturer.
“There’s a good reason why Ford BlueCruise is the first hands-free driving system to be cleared for use in a European country: We’ve proven beyond doubt that it can support the driver while also ensuring that they keep their eyes on the road for their safety and that of their passengers while the system is active,” said Torsten Wey, manager, advanced driver assistance systems, Ford Europe.
“That means BlueCruise can make other road users’ journeys more comfortable too.”
The system operates at speeds of up to 80mph (129km/h).