In-Car Tech

Ford's hands-free driving tech is coming to F-150, Mustang Mach-E later this year

The 2022 Ford F-150 will be able to come with BlueCruise hands-free driving technology.

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company
It's official. The Ford F-150 and Mustang Mach-E will be the first vehicles in the company's lineup to receive the new BlueCruise hands-free driving technology.

Blue Oval's engineers traveled over 500,000 miles during technology development testing and fine-tuning the technology on a journey across the United States and Canada. That culminated with what Ford internals called the "Mother of All Road Trips", a 110,000-mile trek through 37 states and five Canadian provinces.

"There are highway intricacies and driving conditions that you simply cannot replicate in a lab," said Hau Thai-Tang, Ford chief product platform and operations officer. "Sending these vehicles out for real-world driving experience is just one of many ways we ensured that BlueCruise technology offers confidence and convenience for drivers all across the continent."

2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E

The Mustang Mach-E will be one of the first electric vehicles to feature hands-free driving tech in the U.S.

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

Technology testing provided real work validation of earlier laboratory testing including functionalities that scan the road for road signage, exit ramps, traffic patterns, and weather.

"I drive long-distance quite often, whether out to Boston or down to Florida to visit family or friends, and usually I mentally tire out on drives that far," said Alexandra Taylor, BlueCruise feature development engineer, who logged more than 3,000 miles in an F-150 on the trek. "The one thing that became clear is that, when using BlueCruise, long drives aren't nearly as mentally taxing to me."

Back at the Ford lab, driver-assist technology supervisor Justin Teems monitored the progress of the entire fleet, gathering data that will help shape the BlueCruise driving experience now and in the future.

"It was like mission control," Teems said. "We really wanted to push BlueCruise to its limits. Every state builds roads a little differently. When you include factors like lane line degradation, weather and construction, building a hands-free driving system becomes extremely complex. Those complexities are why Ford has the best team of engineers in the world working on it."

BlueCruise builds on the advanced camera and radar-sensing technologies that are available with adaptive cruise control with stop and go, lane centering, and traffic sign recognition, which are part of the Ford Co-Pilot360 suite of technology.

A new lane centering mode acts just as one would guess it does by its name,. This technology is used in BlueCxuise, but not exclusive to it. Lane centering tech requires drivers to keep their hands on the wheel at all time.

The new Ford advanced driver assist system allows a driver to operate their vehicle truly hands free on prequalified sections of divided highways called Hands-Free Blue Zones. This is similar to the types of roadways that General Motors’ Super Cruise operates on.

As with Super Cruise, a driver-facing camera watches eye gaze and head position making sure that the driver keeps their focus 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.

Ford Blue Zones map

Ford's BlueCruise technology works in areas called "Blue Zones". Here they are shown on a map.

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

BlueCruise is an SAE Level 2 driver-assist technology, similar to Tesla Autopilot but with the advantage of offering a true hands-free driving experience while in Hands-Free Mode that does not require a driver's hands to stay in contact with the steering wheel, unless prompted by vehicle alerts.

Ford is quick to point out that BlueCruise is color blindness friendly, using text and blue lighting cues to communicate with drivers rather than the red and green colors that are utilized by Super Cruise and Tesla's Autopilot.

Later this year, properly equipped versions of the Ford F-150 and Mustang Mach-E will receive over-the-air BlueCruise technology updates. New features and capabilities will be added similarly in the coming years.

Ford expects to roll out the tech to addition models from 2021.

2021 F-150 and 2021 Mustang Mach-E customers will be able to purchase BlueCruise software – including a three-year service period – for $600 in the second half of 2021, when it's ready to launch. Hardware pricing varies by vehicle.

For F-150, BlueCruise is available as a part of the Ford Co-Pilot 360 Active 2.0 package for a total of $1,595 – $600 for the software and $995 for the hardware. The Ford Co-Pilot 360 Active 2.0 package is standard on F-150 Limited and available as an option on Lariat, King Ranch and Platinum models.

For Mustang Mach-E, BlueCruise comes standard on CA Route 1, Premium and First Edition variants. It's an available package on the Select trim for $3,200 – $ 600 for the software and $2,600 for the rest of the package – as part of the larger Comfort and Technology package, which includes features such as a 360-degree camera, heated front seats and heated steering wheel

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OTA software updates

Tesla rolls back FSD beta before issuing fix

Tesla issued a beta update but quickly pulled it back.

Tesla

Tesla's Full Self-Driving tech is currently in public beta testing, which means that the automaker allows a subset of its owners to download the software to their cars. Over the weekend, Tesla released FSD beta 10.3 and users started reporting issues almost immediately. Since Tesla's PR department is essentially CEO Elon Musk's Twitter account, he took to social media to outline the process to fix problems with the beta.

Tesla FSD Drivers reported issues with vehicle safety systems after updating.Tesla

Musk tweeted that public beta version 10.3 was rolled back to 10.2. "Please note, this is to be expected with beta software," he said. Issues began popping up with Tesla owners on various forums and on social media. Drivers reported that cars shut off active safety features without their input and some noted that their forward collision warnings and automatic emergency braking systems malfunctioned, causing the cars to apply the brakes without any apparent danger in the road ahead.

Tesla FSD A new beta was released this morning with fixes for the problems.Tesla

Early this morning, Musk tweeted again to note that beta version 10.3.1 is rolling out now, which would re-update users to the latest version with fixes. All of this illustrates how FSD is not final and has a way to go before it's ready for showtime. Developing software of any type is difficult work, made even harder by the fact that public roads are so unpredictable at times. So, while Tesla's public beta approach, which puts unproven functions into the hands of everyday drivers, may not be the most palatable for many of us on the roads at the same time, it's certainly netting the company plenty of data to work with.

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Custom SUVs

Ford Bronco to rule SEMA this year

The Bronco RTR features a fun livery and several off-road upgrades.

Ford

The annual Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) show is an opportunity for the aftermarket and manufacturers to come together on wildly customized vehicles and to show off the latest parts and tech in the space. Now that the Ford Bronco has finally made its way to the public, it's not surprising to see several wild SEMA takes on the hottest SUV to hit the market in some time.

2021 Bronco by Tucci Hot Rods The tracks are said to improve the Bronco's abilities in deep snow and ice.Ford

2021 Bronco by Tucci Hot Rods

The new Bronco is capable and rugged on its own, but Tucci Hot Rods felt it needed more. The shop gave it that boost with a set of tracks in place of wheels, which are said to be great for deep snow and ice. This Bronco features a 2.3-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder engine and a seven-speed manual transmission to go with its Mattracks 88-Series quad tracks.

2021 Bronco RTR Fun-Runner by RTR Vehicles

Vaghn Gittin Jr's RTR Vehicles imagined a Bronco package that could be installed at the dealer. The result is the Fun-Runner, which features several Ford Performance and Ford Licensed Accessories parts. It's based on a 2021 two-door Bronco Badlands, and comes with an eye-catching wrap, an Ultimate Dana 44 front axle, Ultimate Dana 60 semi-float rear axle, RCV Performance CV axles, and a performance intake for its four-cylinder engine.

2021 Bronco by BDS Supensions SEMA presents an excellent opportunity for shops to show off their skill and imagination.Ford

2021 Bronco by BDS Supensions

BDS is a subsidiary of Fox Shocks and has worked with Ford for quite some time. The results of that long-running relationship are on display with the BDS Bronco, which features Fox 2.5 PES coilovers, BDS rear adjustable control arms and track bar, swaybar disconnect, and 37-inch BFGoodrich KM3 tires. The Bronco's bumpers have been replaced with CrawlTek Revolution units that feature a recessed winch mount, recovery hooks and more.

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