Ford’s new hands-free self-driving suite has a shiny new name and a release date, the company announced Friday. BlueCruise will be made available on the Mustang Mach-E electric crossover and F-150 later in 2021 to compete with GM’s Super Cruise and Tesla’s Autopilot/Full Self-Driving suites.
BlueCruise will be offered as an upgrade to the existing Co-Pilot360 system that has been bundled on the 2021 Mach-E and F-150. It offers true, hands-free operation in designated highway “Blue Zones,” of which there are 100,000 miles so far in North America, and Ford validated its new system by driving them all in what the company is calling the “Mother of All Road Trips.”
“There are highway intricacies and driving conditions that you simply cannot replicate in a lab,” said Hau Thai-Tang, Ford 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.”
BlueCruise is an SAE Level 2 driver-assist system, Ford says, like the aforementioned Autopilot and Super Cruise. Unlike Tesla’s effort, BlueCruise and Super Cruise can operate hands-free within the designated Blue Zones. Because the system relies on sensors and cameras rather than wheel feedback to determine driver attention levels, it will only prompt for manual control if it senses that the driver’s gaze has wandered or the car has left a Blue Zone. Ford also points out that it does not use the cameras to record any visual data, protecting owner privacy.
Purchase of any BlueCruise package includes a $600, three-year software “service” charge (Ford doesn’t actually call it a subscription). On the F-150, BlueCruise is included in the Ford Co-Pilot 360 Active 2.0 package ($1,595), which is standard on the Limited and available as an option on Lariat, King Ranch and Platinum models. On the Mach-E, BlueCruise is standard on CA Route 1, Premium and First Edition; it’s available as part of the Comfort and Technology package on the Select for $3,200.
Those who purchased a 2021 model with the Co-Pilot360 Active 2.0 Prep package can upgrade their vehicles to BlueCruise via an over-the-air software purchase. Ford will start selling BlueCruise-equipped Mach-Es and F-150s in the second half of 2021.