Ford has become the first automaker to introduce hands-free driver-assistance technology approved for pre-mapped motorways in Britain (*excluding Northern Ireland).
The technology has been described as "hands-off, eyes-on" driver assistance and is the first system of its kind approved in Europe.
Owners of Ford Mustang Mach-E models built after 3rd November 2022 in 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, enabling the advanced driver-assistance system for anticipated vehicle use.
Approval from the UK’s Department for Transport means drivers can use BlueCruise on 2,300 miles (3,700 km) of pre-mapped motorways in England, Scotland and Wales, which will be designated as "Blue Zones". While in a Blue Zone Ford drivers will be able to take 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.
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, sophisticated infrared camera technology continually checks driver attentiveness for safety and confidence.
BlueCruise builds on Ford’s Intelligent Adaptive Cruise Control (IACC). The system uses animated cluster transitions featuring text and blue lighting cues to communicate that the feature is in hands-free mode, so it’s effective even for those with colour blindness.
Operating up to a maximum speed of 80 mph (130 km/h), BlueCruise uses a combination of radars and cameras to 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 – to ensure their attention remains focussed on the road.
If the system detects driver inattention, warning messages are first displayed in the instrument cluster, followed by audible alerts, brake activations, and finally slowing of the vehicle while maintaining steering control. Similar actions are performed if the driver fails to place their hands back on the steering wheel when prompted on leaving a Blue Zone.
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.