Ford's all-electric Mustang Mach-E will have a hands-free driving mode option to compete with Tesla's Autopilot

FordJohn Gilchrist, Mustang Mach-E engineer, demonstrates Active Drive Assist, a new driver-assist feature that allows for hands-free driving on more than 100,000 miles of divided highways in all 50 states and Canada. An advanced infrared driver-facing camera ensures Sullivan remains attentive while his hands are off the wheel. Active Drive Assist begins rolling out on select 2021 model year Ford vehicles, and will be available across the Mustang Mach-E lineup.
  • Ford will offer Active Drive Assist, which is a hands-free driving system.
  • The system uses an infrared camera to track the driver’s eye gaze and head position to make sure they are watching the road.
  • The feature will first appear as an option for the all-electric Mustang Mach-E.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

On Thursday, Ford announced its intention to offer its own hands-free advanced driver-assist features, which will first appear as an option for the all-electric Mustang Mach-E.

The technology is called Ford Co-Pilot360, which includes a whole suite of driver-assist features including Active Drive Assist – Ford’s hands-free driving system, the company announced via a press release.

Ford Active Drive Assist HMIFordA pre-production screen showing the human-machine interface of Active Drive Assist, a new Ford Co-Pilot360™ Technology that allows for hands-free driving on more than 100,000 miles of divided highways in all 50 states and Canada.

Active Drive Assist lets drivers drive – hands-free – on more than 100,000 miles of divided, pre-mapped highways in the US and Canada, Ford says. It’s something that evolved past the company’s existing adaptive cruise control with lane-centering feature and added in a hands-free mode, a first for Ford.

To use it, drivers must pay attention to the road ahead. An infrared, driver-facing camera will track the driver’s eye gaze and head position to make sure they are watching the road while in both hands-free and lane-centering mode. It will allegedly even work for drivers who are “wearing most sunglasses.”

These systems work on “any road with lane lines,” Ford says. Failure to maintain attention will cause the system to give the driver visual prompts on the instrument cluster for when they need to take back control of the car.

Ford Road Edge DetectionFordRoad Edge Detection can increase driving confidence in rural areas by sensing the edges of a lane with visible lines or road with a clear edge, such as grass or dirt. The technology can then alert the driver if the vehicle is starting to drift out of the lane or off the road.

Active Drive Assist will appear as an option on select 2021 model-year Ford cars, as well as across the Mustang Mach-E lineup. Ford says that those who were the first to order a Mach-E will also be able to use the technology, as the hardware will be part of the available Ford Co-Pilot360 Active 2.0 Prep Package.

“Ford plans to give customers who purchase the prep package the opportunity to purchase Active Drive Assist software and receive the feature at a Ford dealer or via an over-the-air update expected in the third quarter of 2021,” the company says.

On paper, Ford’s Active Drive Assist sounds mightily similar to the General Motors Super Cruise system, which is found on select Cadillac models and offers hands-free driving and uses a camera to watch the driver’s face for attention. The Tesla Autopilot system requires drivers to leave their hands on the steering wheel but uses eight external cameras, a radar, ultrasonic sensors, and an onboard computer to guide itself.

Ford Mach E Co Pilot360 2.0FordFord Co-Pilot360 2.0.

Ford’s system, as Reuters points out, comes six years after Tesla and four years after GM introduced similar systems. Interestingly, nowhere in Ford’s press release do the words “autonomous” or “self-driving” appear. It’s clear the company is marketing Active Drive Assist as a driver-assistance feature and not as an autonomous driving system.

To bring the technology to market, Ford says its engineers and test drivers amassed more than 650,000 miles of testing out adaptive cruise control and blind-spot information with cross-traffic alert systems in order to make sure the radar- and camera-based features work as they are meant to in as many real-world situations as possible.

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