Forward-looking: Drivers can now use Ford's hands-free driver assistance system, BlueCruise, on select roads in the United Kingdom. It is the first Level 2 driver assistance to receive approval for use in the UK and Europe. However, BlueCruise is not available on all Ford vehicles and is only allowed on specific stretches of road.
Ford announced that a new ruling by the UK's Department of Transportation allows drivers to experience Ford's BlueCruise driver assistance technology on more than 3,200 kilometers (2,000 miles) of pre-mapped roads in England, Scotland, and Wales. Ford's 2023 Mustang Mach-E will be the first vehicle to receive access to the subscription-based feature. The semi-autonomous driver assistance technology has logged more than 102 million kilometers (64 million miles) across the United States and Canada.
Initially introduced in 2021, Ford designed BlueCruise (also known as ActiveGlide in some Lincoln vehicles) as a hands-off, eyes-on technology designed to assist, but not replace, the vehicle operator. The system can monitor and analyze speed limit signs, road markings, and even current traffic conditions to continuously monitor and control steering, acceleration, braking, lane position, and following distance, making BlueCruise a Level 2 autonomous driving technology.
The system includes a driver-facing camera to monitor and ensure that the vehicle's operator is alert and paying attention to road conditions before engaging the assistance system. Once enabled, the system will operate up to a maximum speed of 80 mph (130 km/h) using onboard radars and cameras to monitor surrounding vehicle positions while using a forward-facing camera to detect lane markings and speed signs. BlueCruise uses these data points to calculate required driving inputs while ensuring safe vehicle operation.
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Driver attention is constantly monitored and enforced by the BlueCruise system. If the internal driver-facing camera detects inattention, the system issues audible alerts and warning messages on the vehicle's instrument cluster. If the driver remains unfocused after these alerts are issued, the car will automatically begin braking to slow down and eventually stop. It performs similar actions if the driver fails to place their hands back on the steering wheel when prompted by the system.
Drivers in the UK can only use BlueCruise in identified "Blue Zones"--pre-defined roadways where drivers can safely remove their hands from the wheel. Ford UK's BlueCruise page notes that the DoT has marked 95 percent of the country's motorways as Blue Zones.
While the new technology sounds great, it does come at a price. New owners of eligible Ford vehicles will receive free access to the BlueCruise system for the first 90 days following their vehicle purchase. At the end of that period, owners can sign up for a monthly subscription. According to Ford, the ongoing cost to UK subscribers is currently listed at £17.99 (a little over $22 US) monthly.