In SUVs with this technology, drivers can take their hands off the steering wheel and take their feet off the brake and accelerator pedals, and the car will mainly drive itself on major highways.
Mach-E will be available later this year and will be available as a hands-free hardware option. Ford said the software that activated the functionality called Active Drive Assist will be sold separately in the fall of 2021. Drivers can install at home via a download or at a Ford dealer.
Ford’s electric vehicle director, Darren Palmer, said that drivers tend to “over-rely” on such driver assistance technologies and stop paying attention about seven minutes after using a system like this one. This makes driver monitoring technology important.
The driver said no data will be stored from the surveillance camera. It will only be used for instant monitoring of the driver’s perspective.
Ford’s Active Driving Assist is different from Tesla’s Autopilot technology, because the Autopilot is not designed to allow drivers to leave the steering wheel for a long time. The Tesla system also does not have a driver monitoring camera. Instead, the Autopilot relies on detecting at least a light tug from the driver’s hand on the steering wheel to show that the driver is involved in driving. If the Tesla system does not detect a hand on the steering wheel for a while, Autopilot will stop working.
Many other car manufacturers, including Mercedes-Benz, Audi, BMW and Nissan, often offer systems that are similar to Tesla Autopilot and also do not encourage their drivers to take their hands off the steering wheel.
According to Ford, Ford’s Active Driving Assistance system will not make highway lane changes. This explained that Tesla and some other systems can and GM’s future Super Cruise systems can.
The company said the Active Drive Assist system will run on more than 100,000 miles of divided motorways in the U.S. and Canada. The system can be updated to allow use on more freeways over time.
Ford includes various driver assistance technologies, such as adaptive cruise control and automatic lane retention, which automatically track future traffic at a distance.
The driver will be warned when he enters a motorway on which the system can work. The status of the various driver assistance systems, including Active Driver Assistance, will be displayed on the narrow computer display just in front of the driver serving as an indicator cluster. Ford executives carefully studied how engineers would clearly state the system status of the drivers.
When the system came into play, Chris Billman, Ford’s driving support technologies customer experience director, said drivers could immediately regain control of the steering wheel.
“We wanted to make sure that you were able to take over without feeling like wrestling control from the car,” he said.
Some of Tesla’s other systems, such as Autopilot, require a solid tug on the steering wheel to return control to the driver.
Ford did not provide price information for hardware or software. Managers said the company plans to offer the technology later on other Ford models.