Ford tested its hands-free highway technology in real life conditions across North America over 62 days, and 110,000 miles (177,000 km), in what it's calling the "Mother of All Road Trips."
The point of the trip, says Ford, was to test and prove its BlueCruise hands-free highway driving tech over different driving and road conditions, like faded road lines and rain.
The road trip involved five Ford F-150, and five Mustang Mach-E vehicles, both of which will be rolling out later this year. The hope is to enable future Ford drivers to operate hands-free driving on prequalified sections of over 100,000 miles (160,934 km) of divided highways in North America in what's called the Hands-Free Blue Zones.
Ford's BlueCruise technology
The hands-free highway tech that Ford will be rolling out had already been tested over 500,000 miles (804,672 km) of development testing, and this latest road trip was to see how well BlueCruise performed in real-life conditions.
What's great about the BlueCruise technology is that it puts an emphasis on safety. Ford, similar to Tesla, cautions that its tech is a driver-assist feature, and not a reason to forego all attention on the road ahead.
So, to ensure its hands-free drivers stay focused on their surroundings, Ford's BlueCruise tech sends reminders to prompt them to regain control if it senses they're not engaged. It does so by tracking their head and eye movements through interior cameras, and then sending texts and blue light cues on the panel in the car to catch the driver's attention, and tell them to stay focused. Their hands can stay off the wheel, they just need to be paying attention to the road so that they can regain control of the vehicle if needed.
You'll need the Co-Pilot360 Active 2.0 Prep Package if you want your Ford vehicle to include the BlueCruise option. Over-the-air software updates will enable owners of certain Ford vehicles to update software, which could be done directly from their own garages.
In terms of pricing, 2021 Mustang Mach-E and F-150 customers will be able to buy the BlueCruise software for $600, with different prices for hardware depending on the vehicle. For instance, for F-150 owners, the hardware will cost $995, and for Mustand Mach-E, it'll be $2,600, which includes the larger Comfort and Technology hardware package.
When using BlueCruise on her section of the road trip, Alexandra Taylor, BlueCruise feature development engineer, mentioned "The one thing that became clear is that, when using BlueCruise, long drives aren’t nearly as mentally taxing to me."