a picture of Ford’s electric Mustang Mach-E car

The US road safety authority is currently scrutinizing Ford’s BlueCruise driver assistance system after two tragic collisions. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), both incidents involved Ford Mustang Mach-E vehicles colliding with stationary vehicles at night while the BlueCruise system was activated.

BlueCruise is an advanced driver assistance technology designed to enable hands-free driving on specific roadways, predominantly motorways. Ford has affirmed its commitment to collaborate with the NHTSA in their investigation efforts.

One of the collisions occurred in February, where a Ford Mustang Mach-E equipped with BlueCruise collided with the rear of a stationary Honda, resulting in the tragic death of the 56-year-old driver of the stopped vehicle, as reported by Reuters. Another incident took place in March in Philadelphia.

BlueCruise employs sophisticated eye-tracking cameras to monitor driver attention levels and issues prompts to resume control if any lapses are detected. The NHTSA’s preliminary inquiry will particularly focus on the system’s driver monitoring capabilities and its overall performance in managing driving tasks.

These two critical incidents, which prompted the investigation, are also under separate investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).

In the United Kingdom, BlueCruise has received authorization for use on specific motorways, albeit with variations in implementation and regulations compared to the United States. Presently, it stands as the sole permitted driver assistance technology in the UK allowing hands-off driving, limited to designated road sections and a maximum speed of 81 mph (130 km/h).

The UK government granted approval for the “hands off, eyes on” feature in April of last year, with Transport Minister Jesse Norman commending its potential to enhance driving safety by minimizing human error.

While the UK Department for Transport refrained from commenting on the US investigation, it emphasized that the approval process for Ford’s BlueCruise system underwent rigorous scrutiny and assessment.

Ford’s BlueCruise driver assistance system represents a significant leap forward in automotive technology, offering drivers a taste of semi-autonomous driving capabilities. Designed to enhance comfort and convenience while maintaining safety, BlueCruise provides a hands-free driving experience on certain pre-mapped highways, known as “Hands-Free Blue Zones.”

At its core, BlueCruise combines adaptive cruise control with lane centering to keep the vehicle safely within its lane and maintain a set distance from vehicles ahead. This functionality allows drivers to relax their grip on the steering wheel while the system takes care of acceleration, braking, and steering within its operational boundaries.

One of the standout features of BlueCruise is its ability to operate in a wider range of driving scenarios compared to traditional adaptive cruise control systems. It can handle curves and bends in the road, as well as adjust speed based on posted speed limits and traffic conditions.

To ensure safety, BlueCruise incorporates advanced driver monitoring technology. Using a combination of cameras and sensors, the system tracks the driver’s attention level to ensure they remain engaged and ready to take over control if necessary. If the system detects signs of driver distraction or inattention, it prompts the driver to regain control of the vehicle.

BlueCruise is not intended to replace the driver but rather to assist them in certain driving situations. It requires the driver to keep their hands on the steering wheel and remain alert and attentive at all times. The system provides visual and audible alerts to remind the driver to stay engaged and ready to intervene if needed.

Ford has continuously updated and improved BlueCruise since its introduction, refining its performance and expanding its capabilities. With each update, the system becomes more capable and reliable, bringing the automotive industry closer to the vision of fully autonomous vehicles.

In summary, Ford’s BlueCruise driver assistance system offers drivers a taste of the future of mobility, combining advanced automation with robust safety features to provide a comfortable and convenient driving experience on the highway.

The NHTSA’s latest inquiry into the performance of driver assistance systems, prompted by recent accidents, follows its announcement of an investigation into the efficacy of Tesla’s solutions for safety concerns in its Autopilot driver assistance system. Like BlueCruise, Autopilot falls under Level 2 autonomous driving software, necessitating driver alertness and manual wheel control.

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