Ford has launched Britain’s first hands-free self-driving car system after securing permission from the Department for Transport to allow motorists to let go of the steering wheel on motorways.
The company will charge £17.99-a-month ($22.50) to owners of its electric Mustang Mach-E vehicle for access to its BlueCruise system, which will drive the vehicle for motorists and allow them to take their hands off the wheel. It's being hailed as another step on the path to self-driving cars.
Once enabled, BlueCruise will allow drivers of the £50,000 ($62,000) cars to travel at speeds of up to 70 miles per hour on UK roads, using radar and cameras to adjust speed, steer on bends and change position in a driving lane. But there will be no tipping the seat back and going to sleep as drivers will be monitored using an infrared camera to ensure they are paying attention to the road. If a driver takes their eyes off the road, the system will show warning messages and audible alerts before slowing down the vehicle.
The system will be able to adapt to variable speed limits and come to a complete halt in traffic jams. It can adjust its position in the lane, for example when a large vehicle is passing, but not change lanes.
Ford said it was the first hands free driving system available for consumers in Europe.
Ford said the technology, which is already in use in the US and similar to Tesla’s “self-driving” features, is the first time level 2 autonomy will be available for general use on UK roads outside trials. Level 2 is defined as partial automation – the next step towards level 5, or full self-driving vehicles, on the car industry’s internationally recognised autonomy scale.