Dearborn, Michigan – Ford’s Active Drive Assist, part of its Co-Pilot360 technology suite, allows for hands-free driving on more than 100,000 miles of divided highways.
“The stress of long highway drives remains a huge issue for drivers around the world,” said Hau Thai-Tang, Ford’s chief product development and purchasing officer. “By introducing driver-assist technologies like Active Drive Assist, Ford’s version of hands-free driving, we’re allowing our customers to feel more confident whenever they’re behind the wheel.”
Active Drive Assist is the next evolution of Intelligent Adaptive Cruise Control with Lane Centering from Ford, adding a first-for-Ford Hands-Free Mode with the potential for more enhancements in the future.
The baby step into autonomous driving is similar to similar systems such as General Motors’ Super Cruise hands-free system available on several Cadillac models and Tesla’s Autopilot option. Like those systems, Ford’s hands-free mode isn’t complete autonomy – the drive must still pay attention to the road.
Hands-Free Mode allows drivers on certain sections of pre-mapped, divided highways to drive with their hands off the steering wheel. An infrared driver-facing camera will track eye gaze and head position to ensure drivers are paying attention to the road while in Hands-Free Mode as well as hands-on Lane Centering Mode, which works on any road with lane lines. Drivers will be notified by visual prompts on their instrument cluster when they need to return their attention to the road or resume control of the vehicle.
“Introducing Active Drive Assist with a driver-facing camera makes perfect sense because the vehicle helps relieve the stress and burden of driving but still leaves you fully in control,” said Thai-Tang. “And if you lose focus on the road ahead, Active Drive Assist will automatically warn and potentially slow the vehicle down until you’re ready to focus back up.”
Active Drive Assist begins rolling out on select 2021 model year Ford vehicles and will be available across the Mustang Mach-E lineup. The feature won’t be available in the early models of the electric crossover expected to be delivered early next year, but buyers can add hands-free driving with software updates in the third quarter of 2021.
Ford subjected its Active Drive Assist test vehicles to snow, rain, bright sun, dark nights, traffic jams, and open roads over hundreds of thousands of miles across the U.S., Canada, and Europe in an attempt to expose the sensors to a variety of extremely specific scenarios – or gray areas – so the technology is as ready to handle the array of real-world conditions drivers face daily.
“Our team has aggressively tested Active Drive Assist to bring something to our customers’ lives that they can trust,” said Justin Teems, Active Drive Assist feature lead. “We go to far-flung places around the U.S. and Canada – from Florida to California, from Quebec to Texas, Wyoming, and Idaho – to try to stimulate those rare-case sensor measurements we might not get anywhere else, capturing data in a number of different ways.”