do not confuse it with blue’s clues, the children’s education show, or a booze cruise, the young adult adventure that’s happens when you combine a boat with tons of alcohol. no, this is bluecriuse, ford’s hands-free driving feature and answer to gm’s super cruise and tesla’s autopilot. it is available on some 2022 f-150s and mustang mach-es.
long story short: it works as advertised. ford isn’t promising commuters the chance to catch up on instagram on their drive to work. but it is giving drivers the chance to lessen fatigue on the slog that is many americans’ rush-hour drive home. bluecruise may be able to keep the car in a lane and a safe distance from traffic in front, but that doesn’t mean it is driving. the driver still needs to pay attention and be ready to resume control if any number of virtually infinite possibilities arise that the computer can’t compute.
bluecruise, much like super cruise, is geo-fenced and limited to divided highways. ford calls them blue zones, but know that it includes over 100,000 miles in all 50 states and southern canada. activate adaptive cruise control and bluecruise takes over once it has a good sense of its surroundings. ford leveraged the digital instrument cluster to totally change its appearance when bluecruise is active. this is one of the best uses of a digital cluster and it avoids any confusion. there’s a camera and two infrared light emitters in the cabin to keep track of what you’re keeping track of. if your eyes wander too long from the task at hand, which is driving, bluecruise will shut down.
the system worked great for us. only when we wore a mask and sunglasses did bluecruise think we weren’t paying enough attention. in addition to tracking eyes, the camera tracks the whole face. (we had a minder from ford in the car with us and we were trying to be respectful.) once we removed the mask, there wasn’t a single warning to pay better attention.
we got to sample the level 2 autonomy system in dearborn, michigan, while behind the wheel of an f-150. the camera and dual ir emitters are totally integrated with the pickup's dash. in the mach-e, however, there is a camera wart on the steering column. there is no relative limit as to what speed you can set bluecruise to maintain. we didn’t confirm that the f-150 could achieve it, but we did set the system to 106 mph while cruising at 55 mph behind a tractor trailer on the southfield freeway. we’re guessing the top speed of the pickup is 106 mph.
if you have a 2021 f-150 or mach-e with the ada prep pack, you can pay a one-time $600 fee to upgrade your car to bluecruise spec. this can be done over the air or at a dealership. another over-the-air update—ford calls them power-ups—that includes an automated lane-change feature will roll out at some point in the near future. for now, drivers will have to signal and initiate the lane change themselves.
this is just one step of many more that need to happen on the path to full autonomy. ford is confident it will be put more than 100,000 bluecruise equipped cars on the road in the next year.