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-Pilot360In 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-EFord 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 IIHS may increase the speeds it uses to test advanced driver aids.

Insurance Institute for Highway Safety

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) recently announced that it is considering changing the speeds it uses to test vehicle-to-vehicle front crash prevention systems. The agency currently tests the systems at 12 and 25 mph, but says that the speeds don't accurately represent the types of crashes the safety tech is meant to prevent.

Front crash preventionwww.youtube.com

Automatic emergency braking (AEB) is designed to notify of a possible collision and help respond with automatic application of braking. Just like a human using the brake pedal, it can stop the car, but higher speeds make it difficult to stop in time. The new tests would be conducted at 35 to 45 mph, which is the range where a large number of rear-end crashes occur. As Automotive News noted, an IIHS study showed 43 percent of rear-end crashes occur at speeds of 45 mph or less, so it's important to have a test that shows how well the tech performs at those levels.

A whopping 85 percent of 2022 vehicles earned a "Superior" rating in the current testing regime, so the IIHS will remove it from 2023 testing and Top Safety Pick award evaluations. Their view is that, since the majority of vehicles meet the criteria, it's no longer an accurate way of evaluating performance. In its place, the agency introduced a night test for automatic emergency braking systems that will begin next year.

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Lincoln will not make a performance variant to compete with Cadillac.

Lincoln

TheLincoln Navigator and Cadillac Escalade have been duking it out at the top of luxury SUV rankings for decades, but there’s one area of the Caddy’s development that Lincoln won’t touch. In a recent interview, a company executive told Ford Authority that it has no plans to create a performance variant of the Navigator to compete with the upcoming Escalade V from Cadillac.

2022 Lincoln NavigatorThe new Navigator features several upscale touches and excellent tech. Lincoln

That means the Navigator will stick with the powertrain it’s carried for years, which is a twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter EcoBoost engine that makes 440 horsepower and 510 pound-feet of torque. It’s paired with a smooth ten-speed automatic and either rear- or four-wheel drive. While there’s more than enough power to get the hulking Lincoln moving, it’s not a powertrain that inspires excitement or engagement, and though beefy, it’s tuned much more for comfort and quietness than drama.

Though more than adequate, those specs are a far cry from the numbers we expect from the Escalade V. The full-size bruiser from Cadillac is expected to get a supercharged 6.2-liter V8, similar to the unit seen in the CT5-V Blackwing and Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. We don’t know power numbers yet, but the engine should deliver horsepower and torque numbers in the high 600s.

Cadillac Escalade VThe Escalade V will be massively powerful. Cadillac

That Lincoln is taking a different approach isn’t surprising. The automaker has already announced its intention to go all-electric, so pouring more time and resources into creating a performance gas-powered SUV isn’t in line with its goals. Company executives have also expressed a desire to avoid imitating rivals, so the decision to leave a performance Navigator behind is not surprising.

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