By on April 14, 2021

On Wednesday, Ford Motor Co. announced its upcoming hands-free driver-assist system intended to rival Tesla’s Autopilot or General Motors SuperCruise. The service, which the manufacturer has renamed BlueCruise, will be available on top trimmed “Mustang” Mach-E crossovers and F-150 pickup trucks via over-the-air-updates in the third quarter of 2021.

It will not be free, however.

Even though Ford has promised highly competitive pricing, customers will need to have purchased vehicles equipped with the necessary hardware (including driver monitoring cameras) before they’ll be eligible to spend the additional $600 Ford is asking for the privilege of using BlueCruise for three years. While more affordable than the competition, it still seems a lot to spend on a vehicle so you can pretend it’s self-driving – especially since the company failed to make it sound like it would be any more advanced than what’s being offered on Tesla and Cadillac vehicles that similarly cannot drive themselves. 

BlueCruise seems to tap into all the latest automotive trends we’ve taken umbrage with – subscription services, locking features behind over-the-air (OTA) paywalls, invasive driver monitoring, and potentially delivering a tech product that’s less advanced than it appears at first blush. But that’s not really all that different from what’s being offered by Ford’s rivals.

GM’s SuperCruise has limitations on where it can be used, comes with an interior camera, and requires that a driver remain constantly attentive or it will deactivate itself. Tesla’s Autopilot is more flexible, however, it’s been modified to keep operators more invested while running and will likewise shut down when it thinks you’ve checked out. Meanwhile, the EV manufacturer’s formerly lauded Full Self-Driving Capability has effectively evolved into a $10,000 version of Autopilot Plus with a promise from CEO Elon Musk that it might someday result in a vehicle that’s capable of SAE Level 5 autonomy. With the addition of several years worth of testing data on the fallibility of advanced driving aids, we’ve grown skeptical of the general premise.

But Ford said BlueCruise would be easier to use, claiming it would be a legitimate hands-free experience that would have features added as the technology matures. To prove this, it unleashed a batch of vehicles equipped with the system for a 110,000 mile (combined) road trip. The company also made a direct comparison between the new system and the Model T in an effort to make it seem more relevant.

The system is presently capable of navigating over 100,000 miles of divided highway (based on Ford’s GPS mapping network) in hands-free mode and that’s what customers will get at launch. But the automaker said that would increase over time, noting that future updates would gradually add new features to BlueCruise.

“There are highway intricacies and driving conditions that you simply cannot replicate in a lab,” said Hau Thai-Tang, Ford’s 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.”

Additional details were given back in October, when the system was still called Active Drive Assist, that frankly paint a more comprehensive picture of what Ford is going for and even how it wants to market BlueCruise. By comparison, this week’s release offered very little information about what the system is actually capable of. Though we did learn that it wouldn’t launch with automatic lane changing or predictive speed adjustments designed to help the vehicle slow for turns or obstacles. Ford said they would be available later, however.

From Ford:

Henry Ford helped millions of people lay hands on their first automobiles beginning more than 117 years ago. Today, his company is helping many more people take their hands off steering wheels by applying the same approach to democratizing technology to Ford’s state-of-the-art Active Drive Assist hands-free driver assist innovation.

Ford developed Active Drive Assist based on advanced computing of camera and radar sensing technologies to provide real-time hands-free driving opportunities. The technology also enables expanded hands-free driving zones in the future based on system and customer patterns.

“As breakthroughs in new technology allow us to help reduce the stress of long highway drives, it’s important to make sure these capabilities can be enjoyed by the largest spread of people possible,” Hau Thai-Tang explained last fall. “Active Drive Assist can help improve the driving experience while ensuring people remain aware and fully in control, all for a price unmatched by our competitors – a commitment to affordable innovations that has driven us since Henry Ford put the world on wheels.”

Ford’s pricing claims appear to be accurate for the most part, though we’re not ready to call BlueCruise the deal of the century. For starters, customers appear to be paying $600 to spend 3 years beta testing the system and helping Ford accumulate data. While this is hardly a new practice for the automotive industry, there’s always something bothersome about paying for unfinished features. But let’s say you’re still interested and will be one of the 100,000 people Ford thinks will subscribe to the service within its first year. How can you make absolutely sure your vehicle is eligible?

Customers will need to have purchased an F-150 equipped with the Co-Pilot 360 Active 2.0 package – which is standard on the Limited trim and can be added for $995 on others. From there, they can purchase BlueCruise and have it installed via the aforementioned OTA update and 3-year subscription. Alternatively, those who purchased a Mach-E CA Route 1, Premium, or First Edition model will find they have all the necessary hardware in advance and only need to pony up the $600. The Mach-E Select will also be eligible, provided it has the $3,200 Comfort and Technology package.

Availability is supposed to begin in the third quarter of this year and we expect to see another announcement a few days ahead of the official launch of Ford BlueCruise.

 

[Images: Ford Motor Co.]

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35 Comments on “Ford Introduces ‘Hands-Free’ BlueCruise System for F-150, Mach-E...”


  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    It should be called “BooCruise”.

  • avatar
    Imagefont

    Look, let’s just all agree to call the “Mustang” Mach-E what it should have been named all along:
    The E-Maverick.
    I think they even unconsciously styled it a little bit like a Maverick, and they’re both 4-doors. Most people over 60 have a good Maverick story.

  • avatar
    Lou_BC

    Looks like “BlueCruise” won’t be of much use in Canada. Lucky for us.

    Looks like it works on the Coquihalla. That will just mean more idiots in the ditch come winter time.

  • avatar
    Cicero

    Let’s see.

    Ford charges you $600 for three years of “service.” The service includes an autopilot system that should not be relied on to autonomously pilot your car. In the meantime Ford will gather every scrap of data it can suck out of the system about your driving style, itineraries as well as your entire repertoire of funny facial expressions. It will protect this data with nearly hacker-proof security technology and then commoditize your privacy by selling it off to the highest bidder.

    Where do I sign up?

    • 0 avatar
      Imagefont

      Tesla, errr, Ford, needs your data so they can improve the system. Yeah, that’s it. After 100 million miles, errrr, make that trillion miles, it will all be perfect!
      Just like Tesla!
      Coast to coast baby, hands free! Here we come!

  • avatar
    stuki

    Unless you are give some additional leeway wrt texting, using your phone and/or other intermittently attention demanding activities when engaging these systems, I fail to see how useful they really are.

    In practice, they’re a bit like asking kiddo in the passenger seat to take the wheel for a split, so you can do something incompatible with paying attention to the road. As long as you legally cannot do the latter, I’m not sure how much use asking kiddo to do the former really is

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      “so you can do something incompatible with paying attention to the road”

      Correct, which is why Level 2 autonomy should be banned. It requires the driver to pay attention, so by definition it doesn’t actually have to work. But humans being what we are, people push the boundaries until they drive under a semi or into a lane barrier.

      What you’re describing is a Level 4 or 5 AV system, and IMO no mfr’s legal team will sign up for that liability – not even Tesla’s.

    • 0 avatar
      redapple

      @Stucki

      YES ! Agreed.

      While the system is engaged, i need to be on a high level of standby to intervene at a sceonds notice.

      REally?

      Give me a break. It s easier to just drive the damn car.

      Pure Garbage hype govna stupidity.

  • avatar
    EBFlex

    Hopefully, this will be better designed than nearly everything else they produce although I doubt it. Ford can’t get rust-proofing right let alone a fancy cruise control.

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      “Ford can’t get rust-proofing right”

      That’s so very critical with the new F150…

      The worst for rust is Ram/Dodge pickups. The F150 pre-aluminum is prone to rust in the rear cab corners. Chevy’s seem to be better than both for holding up to rust.

      • 0 avatar
        EBFlex

        “That’s so very critical with the new F150…”

        Imagine being a frequent commentator on an automotive news blog and thinking that every shred of metal on the F150 is incapable of rusting. Wow.

        I must say Lou, your nonsensical, wildly misguided ramblings never really surprise me, but that got me. Good work!

        • 0 avatar
          Lou_BC

          I did not say that every shred of metal was incapable of rusting. The body is the usual culprit.

          But hey, once again, you troll away.

          “nonsensical, wildly misguided ramblings”

          “Projection is a defense mechanism in which the ego defends itself against unconscious impulses or qualities by denying their existence in themselves and attributing them to others.”

          I could write a doctoral dissertation on your neuroses.

          • 0 avatar
            EBFlex

            “ I could write a doctoral dissertation on your neuroses”

            Right. Because talking about Fords numerous quality issues in an article about a highly technical cruise control is so outrageous.

            Thank you for, once again, proving my point about you although the last one most certainly didn’t surprise me. You’re back to being predictable Lou_MR

          • 0 avatar
            Lou_BC

            @ebcluck – one again, you shift away from any perceived flaws with Ford flaws to the personal. It does appear that you have an irrational Ford phobia among other issues.

          • 0 avatar
            EBFlex

            Stating the truth about Ford is neither irrational or a phobia. Perhaps learning what those two words mean would help you in using them correctly.

          • 0 avatar
            Art Vandelay

            I think the last time EBFlex saw his wife she was in the back seat of some Ford product with an “If this van’s a rockin’, don’t bother knockin\'” sticker on it. Only thing that explains it

          • 0 avatar
            Lou_BC

            @Art Vandelay – there was a line in “SpaceBalls” “I was born in the back of the Ford Galaxy”….maybe that’s it or the conception part . LOL

            “Pity the fool”…. Mr. T.

          • 0 avatar
            ToolGuy

            Teaming up to insult spouses now? A new low for TTAC.

            “Your mother”-level ‘argument’ doesn’t even rank on Graham’s Hierarchy.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ad_hominem#/media/File:Graham's_Hierarchy_of_Disagreement.svg

            [We have D-I-Y Site Moderation now. This should work out well.]

  • avatar
    johnnyz

    My 2021 F150 Laria had the option for $1295 add the self drive capability. I did not check that box on the order form. If I wanted to invest in Ford’s technology – I would buy their stock. Seemed like vapor wear!

    Note that the automatic cruise control with Lane keep assist does a pretty darn good job of holding the road. You can let go of the wheel and it will hold the Lanes on the freeway for some time.

    • 0 avatar
      Matt Posky

      That’s something I should have mentioned in the article. I have actually found Ford’s standard lane keeping to be one of the better examples on the market. But I still hardly ever use it outside of testing purposes, even on long road trips, and have no idea how that is going to translate to BlueCruise

    • 0 avatar
      Urlik

      So if I am reading this right…if you had spent the $1295 on the necessary hardware, Ford would still make you subscribe to enable it at $600 for three years.

      Subscription services on cars deserve to die a horrible, painful death. Preferably with the marketing and accounting morons who thought it was a good idea.

      • 0 avatar
        johnnyz

        Yes, they said there would be an additional fee plus a subscription.

        I said N O T.

        • 0 avatar
          JMII

          The more people that do that the quicker this will die. Remember when BMW tried an Apple CarPlay subscription.

          My guess is this cost will be part of some promotion or spiff… IE: buy today and we will throw in BlueCruise for 1 year plus floor mats, but today only.

  • avatar
    dwford

    These level 2 systems make the driver pay MORE attention than they would just driving the car themselves. What’s the point?

  • avatar
    C5 is Alive

    Ford still can’t be trusted to align fenders and doors correctly. This is probably a bridge too far.

    • 0 avatar
      EBFlex

      Ford needs to get back to basics. Like, building a vehicle and then NOT needing to ship it to another factory to immediately be fixed. Then they can play around with seats that recline and cruise control.

  • avatar
    KOKing

    I see ‘BlueCruise’ and read ‘BoozeCruise’ Hmm, if it lets you drive while buzzed, it’s a safety feature, right?

  • avatar
    IH_Fever

    Beta testing, now available in behemoth truck flavor!

  • avatar
    ToolGuy

    “There are highway intricacies and driving conditions that you simply cannot replicate in a lab”

    Wait until they get to Alabama.

    • 0 avatar
      ToolGuy

      Example: The drive from Birmingham to Auburn University on 280 will forever make you question your grasp of the meaning and concept of “limited-access highway”…

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/U.S._Route_280

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    Makes sense for the Mustang Model E, but I can’t see this working too well with heavy loads, trailers, nor illegal lift kits. Basically your usual F-150 things.

    Can’t say that I like Fords higher focus on data collection than quality control. But when you have iconic names to throw around I guess you can get away with anything.

    • 0 avatar
      EBFlex

      Thing is they can’t get away with it because at the end of the day, all people want is reliable transportation. You can’t produce garbage and expect people to but it based on calling it a Mustang or because it says F150 on it.

      Granted that is what Ford is hoping for as they move away from basic engineering but people are catching on.

  • avatar
    schmitt trigger

    How many people believe that THE best reason for a self driving vehicle is the ability to be making out with your girlfriend while the car cruises around on its own?

    But with a driver-focused camera?

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