Ford’s BlueCruise tech is the American automaker’s entry into Level 2 autonomy. And, despite an ongoing legal battle with GM over the name, on paper, the system is set to bring much-anticipated self-driving possibilities to both present and future Ford models.
The system works via a combination of advanced camera and radar-sensing technologies that build on the sensors already installed on 2021 F-150s and Mustang Mach-Es equipped with Co-Pilot360 and the Active 2.0 Prep Package.
Instead of using machine learning like Tesla’s FSD, Ford’s BlueCruise — like the similarly named Super Cruise from GM — is limited to pre-mapped highway stretches. Ford say that they’ve covered over 130,000 miles of North American highways, which are indicated in blue on the vehicle’s navigation screen.
To test it in the real world, automotive engineer turned consultant Sandy Munro got behind the wheel of a Mach-E. With guidance from Chris Billman, Ford’s chief engineer of driver-assist technologies, Munroe tested the system on several miles of mapped highway, where the Mach E remained straight and true within the chosen lane. But it wasn’t long before the system’s limitations began to show themselves, and not just because it’s only active on predetermined stretches of road.
The BlueCruise system, as yet, doesn’t allow for automatic lane changes. That means it won’t automatically overtake slower cars. In a similar vein, the tech isn’t able to negotiate on-ramps or off-ramps, so manual control is necessary. Notably, these are functions that are both achievable with Tesla’s Autopilot, the latter available with Navigate on AutoPilot, an option included as part of Tesla’s Full Self Driving package.
But as Ford markets BlueCruise as “Hands-Free Driving,” perhaps those elements can be overlooked. Except, even on the pre-mapped route, Munroe’s test encountered segments of road where the driver was expected to intervene. Although you may expect an early version of this tech to be stumped by foul weather or perhaps an erratic driver, it would seem that Ford’s system can’t quite tackle sharp curves yet. Instead, it prompts the driver to take over and manually steer the car.
Munroe, who famously spoke out against Tesla’s poor quality control in teardown videos, has warmed to the electric car pioneer, noting recent QC improvements and having a sit-down chat with Elon Musk earlier in the year. And with extensive experience with Tesla’s Autopilot and Full Self Driving tech, the comparisons between the two are inevitable.
Not one to mince his words, Munroe immediately points out his preference towards Tesla’s system which can handle off-ramps and doesn’t need manual intervention when it comes to corners, although Billman does allude that OTA updates will introduce improved functionality.
However, having previously worked for the Blue Oval, Munroe quips that he has a “pension plan that needs to be fully funded,” before suggesting that folks at Ford get their hands on a Tesla with Full Self Driving Beta.
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