On the fast lanes of the UK, an extraordinary driving scene unfolded, one that Ford anticipates replicating throughout Europe shortly. An autonomous vehicle, the first of its kind to be allowed on the UK’s highways, effortlessly cruised down a motorway, slowing down in sync with the truck ahead.
Racing at a speed of 100 km per hour, this compact SUV maintained its lane perfectly as an AFP journalist experienced the thrill from the driver’s seat on the M11 motorway just north of London.
In April, Ford launched the “BlueCruise” self-driving feature for its electric prodigy, the Mustang Mach-E in the UK. The technology made its debut in the United States in 2021 and now graces around 6,000 kilometres of UK’s “blue zones” motorways — from Dover to Scotland.
The autonomous system keeps the driver’s hands free while also guaranteeing no distractions, thanks to multiple cameras and infrared sensors that monitor road and driver attentiveness. When it senses a driver’s lack of attention for over 10 seconds, it prompts: “Look at the road. Resume control”. Non-compliance leads to automatic braking and alarms.
Around 500 early adopters in Britain are currently testing this feature, paying a monthly fee of £17.99. This technology is also present in North America, on the F-150 pickup truck and the Expedition SUV, and claims a user base of 200,000 drivers with zero accidents.
Though competitors like General Motors and Mercedes also offer hands-free driving, their versions come with restrictions. Meanwhile, Elon Musk from Tesla predicts the near advent of fully autonomous (Level 4) driving.
Ford, however, is focused on immediate uses of the technology. It ended a research partnership with autonomous driving startup Argo AI last year, but remains optimistic about the future of Level 4 ADAS (Advanced Driver-Assistance Systems).
Ford CEO, Jim Farley, envisions this technology helping millions of customers reclaim their time, the most precious commodity in our fast-paced world.
Douwe Cunningham, handling safety certification at Ford’s European operation, shared that Ford was the pioneer in the UK to enjoy the relaxation of regulations on hands-free driving. He is negotiating with UK authorities to permit auto lane-changing during overtakes. However, the hands-free driving system doesn’t sanction texting or reading behind the wheel.
Cunningham candidly admits, “It’s evolution, not revolution”. He suggests that enhanced cruise control is the stepping stone to Level 3 autonomous driving, where the computer will dominate most driving scenarios.
According to Tariq Willis, a marketing specialist for Ford, BlueCruise provides a relief to drivers, especially in congested traffic, by letting the car handle the hard part. BlueCruise is expected to launch soon in Germany, followed by France.
(Source: Malay Mail)