Ford Drivers Can Now Let the Car Drive Itself in the UK
Look Mum, No Hands!
The UK government has approved the use of Ford’s new(ish) Blue Cruise technology on a number of British Motorways. Described as a Level 2 Automation system, the technology will allow the car to take over the steering, acceleration and braking whilst a camera system monitors the driver’s eyes to ensure that they stay attentive. So, no sleeping behind the wheel then.
The technology has only been approved for Ford’s Mach-E and only those built since 2023. Even though the technology can be trusted to keep the car a safe distance from other road users, even bringing the car to a complete stop in a traffic jam, it is still a long way from a fully autonomous system—more of an assistant driver, if you like.
However, this will be the first time in the UK that a driver can legally take their hands off the wheel whilst the vehicle is in motion. The system does not allow the driver to take their eyes off the road or do other things such as use a mobile phone, fall asleep or bake some focaccia…You also may like to know that the car is limited to 128kph whilst the Blue Cruise is switched on.
The Ford Mach-e is not a cheap car, though, coming in at around GBP50,000 and the system, well you ain’t going to get it for free except for the first 90 days. Ford is introducing it as a subscription-based service. Deliveries of the vehicle commenced back in April of this year and so far, about 8,600 have been sold.
Thus far, about 2,300 miles of roads are mapped to be “Blue Zones” but over in Americaland, the Blue Cruise has already mapped out 100,000 miles and has been available since 2021. Over there, about 190,000 vehicles are claimed to be using the system and they have covered over 60 million miles using the technology.
The question of accident liability has also been addressed. According to the UK Ministry of Transport, in the case of accidents, the driver will still be fully responsible in insurance claims, as the technology is Level 2 or partial automation and not deemed to be fully autonomous driving and thus, the driver is in control, not the machine. So, no wriggle room there then.
Our old friends over at Tesla have been testing driverless technology in the US but with mixed results. Recently, they had to undertake a recall of 363,000 vehicles to fix a glitch in their system, which allowed drivers to exceed speed limits or fail to stop at junctions. The Ford system is the same Level 2 semi-autonomous system but without any recalls…yet.
Mercedes is still the king of the autonomous driving club with their system known as Drive Pilot. This system allows the driver to take the hands off the wheel and do something else, like watch a video. The system needs what are known as geo-fenced areas and will only work at limited speeds for now. To date, Drive Pilot is only available in Germany and Nevada, USA.