In-Car Tech

Ford Co-Pilot360 adds hands-free driving capability, other high-tech innovations

Software monitors whether or not the driver is watching the road while the technology is employed.

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

Ford Co-Pilot360 Technology, a suite of numerous driver-assist features is adding Active Drive Assist to its roster. Active Drive Assist allows for hands-free driving on more than 100,000 miles of divided highways in all 50 U.S. states and Canada.

"The stress of long highway drives remains a huge issue for drivers around the world," said Hau Thai-Tang, Ford's chief product development and purchasing officer. "By introducing driver-assist technologies like Active Drive Assist, Ford's version of hands-free driving, we're allowing our customers to feel more confident whenever they're behind the wheel."

Active Drive Assist is an evolution of Intelligent Adaptive Cruise Control with Lane Centering. The ability to have hands-free operation is a first for Ford. Now the company goes up against similar products from Tesla (Autopilot) and Cadillac (Super Cruise).

Ford Co-Pilot360 In the 2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E, the technology is displayed on the driver information screen.Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

According to the Dearborn, Michigan-based automaker, "Hands-Free Mode allows drivers on certain sections of pre-mapped, divided highways to drive with their hands off the steering wheel – if they continue to pay attention to the road ahead – granting them an additional level of comfort during long drives."

The system works to ensure that while the driver can operate the vehicle hands-free, they are paying attention to the road. An infrared driver-facing camera tracks eye gaze and head position. This technology is similar to what Subaru uses as part of its EyeSight safety and driver assistance system.

At the same time, Lane Centering Mode operates to keep the vehicle in its lane. Drivers will be notified by visual prompts on their instrument cluster when they need to return their attention to the road or resume control of the vehicle.

"Introducing Active Drive Assist with a driver-facing camera makes perfect sense because the vehicle helps relieve the stress and burden of driving but still leaves you fully in control," said Thai-Tang. "And if you lose focus on the road ahead, Active Drive Assist will automatically warn and potentially slow the vehicle down until you're ready to focus back up."

2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E Ford will debut the new technology in the 2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E. Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

Ford isn't the only automaker readying hands-free driving capability for the market. Volvo recently announced that such a feature will be available on the forthcoming redesigned XC90 though specifics on where that capability will be able to be used is still pending.

To perfect the technology, Ford's team took the company's Active Drive Assist test vehicles on an extensive road trip exposing its sensors to operate in snow, rain, bright sun, dark nights, traffic jams, and open roads in the U.S., Canada, and Europe. The trip was designed to expose the sensors to specific scenarios that drivers face as part of daily driving in the real world.

Active Drive Assist begins rolling out on select 2021 model year Ford vehicles and will be available across the Mustang Mach-E lineup.

Those who get their Mustang Mach-E order in early will have Active Drive Assist hardware available as part of the Ford Co-Pilot360 Active 2.0 Prep Package at time of purchase. Ford currently plans to give customers who purchase the prep package the opportunity to purchase Active Drive Assist software and receive the feature at a Ford dealer or via an over-the-air update in the third quarter of 2021.

The Ford Co-Pilot360 Active 2.0 Prep Package also includes Active Park Assist 2.0, the latest iteration of park-assist technologies. Active Park Assist 2.0 works by holding a button, which gives the vehicle permission to take control of parking in parallel and perpendicular spaces. It also offers Park Out Assist with side-sensing capability that allows drivers to navigate out of a parking spot when another vehicle has parked too close for comfort.

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The Roadster's specs are impressive, to say the least.

Tesla

Elon Musk took to a stage in late 2017 to announce a new product, the second-generation Tesla Roadster, and the numbers were impressive, even for a guy known to casually drop massive bombshells in 160 characters or less on Twitter. He pledged a 620-mile range and a 0-60 mph time in 1.9 seconds for the car – impressive specs, to be sure. When Musk unveiled the car, production was scheduled to commence some time in 2020, but as we all now know, last year wasn't a banner year for car manufacturing. In January, he pushed that date back to 2022, but the timeline has slipped again - into 2023 at this point - and that's only if everything goes smoothly between now and then.


Tesla Roadster Supply chain issues have caused delays in the Roadster's release.Tesla


Responding to a tweet on Wednesday, Musk stated that "assuming 2022 is not mega drama, new Roadster should ship in 2023." That's a pretty big asterisk, given how things have been going over the last 18 months. It's not surprising, though, and Musk acknowledges what we've known for some time now: The global supply chain is a mess, thanks to microchip shortages and pandemic-related closures and delays. "2021 has been the year of super crazy supply chain shortages," he said, admitting that "it wouldn't matter if we had 17 new products, as none would ship." Again, it's not surprising, but it is most likely frustrating for reservation holders, who've plopped down anywhere from $50,000 to $250,000 to hold an order for the Roadster.




Tesla is far from being the only automaker to experience delays, but even if we assume that the rest of 2021 and the beginning of 2022 go smoothly, there's still a lot that can happen. All of Tesla's suppliers would have to get their ducks in a row and there can be no COVID-related production delays. That would also peg 2022 as one of the automaker's flagship years for product releases, with both the Semi and Cybertruck on the schedule. It's possible, but far from guaranteed, that all of those pieces fall into place, making Tesla's 2022 a banner year. As for the Roadster, 2023 could be the year that we're all blown away by its range and acceleration, but recent history suggests that anything can happen at any time, so we won't be holding our breath.

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The Bronco will get two new colors for 2022.

Ford

The new Ford Bronco was in such high demand that buyers were in for a long wait, even before the pandemic and microchip shortages wreaked havoc on automotive supply chains and production. Even now, with little hope of a speedy vehicle delivery, buyers are still lining up to get the new SUV, and to reward those whose dreams will have to wait until 2022, Ford is debuting two new colors: Eruption Green and Hot Pepper Metallic.


2022 Ford Bronco Eruption Green and Hot Pepper Metallic will be available. Ford


Ford revealed the colors at this year's Woodward Dream Cruise. The first-generation Bronco, which ran from 1966 through 1977, was the featured vehicle at the cruise, which presented the opportunity to introduce new colors for the upcoming model year. The two new colors won't join the Bronco's existing color catalog until order banks open for the new model year later in 2021. Ford says that the current color catalog which includes Antimatter Blue, Lightning Blue Metallic, and Rapid Red Metallic will be available through the end of the 2021 model year.


2022 Ford Bronco Many Bronco buyers will have to wait until 2022 to get their new SUV.Ford


The new colors may end up being the shades of choice for many current hopeful Bronco buyers. Along with pandemic-related delays, Ford's rollout of the new Bronco has been plagued by hardtop-related cosmetic issues. The problem is big enough for the automaker to replace the top of every hardtop Bronco built so far. This includes vehicles already purchased, the rare few sitting on dealers' lots, and even recently produced vehicles still hanging around the factory. Buyers still waiting for their Broncos to be built will be waiting a while, to the point that Ford says many orders will be pushed into the new model year. Ford is offering Bronco-related merchandise and promises a price lock for all buyers whose orders have been pushed, and now it appears they'll have two new colors to choose from as well.

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