Ford is set to become the third automaker to offer conditional hands-free driving in the U.S. when it introduces Active Drive Assist, an addition to Ford’s Co-Pilot360 suite of driver-assist features. The technology debuts on “select 2021 model year Ford vehicles” beginning with the all-electric Mustang Mach-E, the automaker said today.
The other two automakers with hands-free driving in the U.S. are GM and BMW Group. However, their systems — Super Cruise (GM) and Extended Traffic Jam Assistant (BMW) — are currently available only for each automaker’s respective luxury brand, Cadillac and BMW. Both automakers’ mass-market brands, from Mini to Chevrolet, have yet to receive the systems. GM has reportedly signaled rapid availability beyond Cadillac in the near future, but, as of now, Ford’s announcement makes it the first mass-market brand to offer hands-free driving for the U.S. market.
Lest you think such technology gives license to sleep or tweet behind the wheel, we aren’t there yet — not even close. Like Super Cruise and ETJA, Active Drive Assist keeps tabs on you to prohibit any attention-free driving: A driver-facing infrared camera tracks the position of your head and eyes (even through “most” sunglasses, Ford says) to ensure you pay attention, with various alerts and potential deceleration if you don’t.
Early shoppers for the Mustang Mach-E will have to order a Ford Co-Pilot360 Active 2.0 Prep Package, which includes the requisite hardware, then pony up separately for Active Driver Assist via an over-the-air update sometime in the third quarter of 2021. The package will also include Active Park Assist 2.0, which Ford says enables the vehicle “to take control of parking in parallel and perpendicular spaces” while you hold down a button.
Working in concert with adaptive cruise control and lane centering, the hands-free mode may have “potential for more enhancements in the future,” the automaker said. It works only on pre-mapped divided highways, though Ford touts “more than 100,000 miles” of roadway across all 50 states and Canada.
Other additions the Mach-E’s Co-Pilot360 include provisions to detect road edges in rural areas, nudge the steering wheel if you’re drifting toward adjacent traffic and resume movement after longer pauses in stop-and-go traffic.
Ford did not reveal pricing and availability for the latest version of Co-Pilot360, nor whether Active Driver Assist will require any sort of ongoing paid subscription. (After the first three years, Super Cruise requires a paid subscription to GM’s OnStar telematics service.) Expect more information closer to the on-sale date of Ford’s 2021 models.
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