Ford Motor Company has announced that it is updating its Ford Co-Pilot360 technology to include hands-free driving on over 160,000 km of divided highways across the United States and Canada.
“The stress of long highway drives remains a huge issue for drivers around the world,” said Hau Thai-Tang, Chief Product Development and Purchasing Officer at Ford. “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.”
While the technology allows drivers to remove their hands from the steering wheel, it is not considered fully autonomous. This means drivers will have to continue paying attention to the road and resume control over the vehicle if prompted.
Active drive assist will combine adaptive cruise control with lane centring to create the company’s first hands-free mode. Hands-free mode will allow drivers on certain sections of pre-mapped, divided highways to drive with their hands off the steering wheel, provided they continue paying attention to the road, to offer an additional level of comfort during long drives.
An advanced 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 and hands-on lane centring mode, which works on any road with lane lines. Drivers will be notified by visual prompts on the instrument cluster when they need to return their attention to the road or take 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.”
The new driving system will launch in the third quarter of 2021 on select Ford vehicles in North America and will be available across the Mustang Mach-E line-up. The company didn’t comment on international availability.
Ford says those first to order a Mustang Mach-E will be able to purchase the Ford Co-Pilot360 Active 2.0 Prep package which will include active drive assist. The company also plans to give customers who purchase the package the ability to purchase the software and receive the feature at a Ford dealer, or via an over-the-air update which is also expected in the third quarter of 2021.