Ford will update BlueCruise driver assist with hands-free lane changing

Technology

Ford is rolling out its first major update to its BlueCruise advanced driver-assist system, adding hands-free lane changing and several other new features, the company announced Thursday.

BlueCruise, which Ford is positioning as a viable competitor to GM’s Super Cruise and Tesla’s Autopilot systems, first launched in 2021 with the Ford Mustang Mach-E and has since rolled out to 75,000 Ford and Lincoln owners.

The software update, BlueCruise 1.2, will arrive this fall, starting with the 2023 Mustang Mach-E before landing with other models. (For Lincoln owners, the update will roll out as ActiveGlide 1.2.) Both updates will include three new features: lane change assist, predictive speed assist, and in-lane repositioning.

Lane change assist will automatically perform a lane change when requested by the driver tapping the turn signal and can even suggest a lane change if the vehicle appears to be in slow-moving traffic. Predictive speed assist automatically adjusts the speed as drivers approach a sharp curve and will signal the driver ahead of time when a speed change is about to occur. And in-lane repositioning keeps the vehicle in its lane while subtly shifting its position away from adjacent vehicles, especially bigger ones like semi trucks.

“These improvements are just the beginning of a constant journey toward improving safety and giving customers valuable time back,” Doug Field, who runs Ford’s electric and autonomous division Model e, said in a statement.

But Ford is slightly behind the rest of the pack when it comes to these features. Tesla added automatic lane changing to Autopilot in 2019, and GM updated Super Cruise to include the feature in 2021. Last year, GM filed a lawsuit against Ford, arguing that the name BlueCruise was too close to Super Cruise. The two companies are reportedly trying to work out a settlement.

BlueCruise and ActiveGlide are Level 2 systems, as defined by the Society for Automotive Engineers’ levels of automation, which generally work in concert with a number of distinct features, like adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking, lane keep assist, blindspot detection, pedestrian monitoring, and stop sign detection. These systems do not make the vehicle autonomous, as drivers are required to stay vigilant and keep their eyes on the road.

Ford says that BlueCruise can be activated only on prequalified divided highways, of which there are currently 130,000 miles. The company says it is “continually improving maps with over-the-air updates identifying prequalified sections of divided highways where BlueCruise can be used.”

The Verge’s Nilay Patel found BlueCruise to be “deeply confusing” when he reviewed the F-150 Lightning but also found that it “worked great” when active.