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Ford Begins Offering Hands-Free Driving, Over-the-Air Updates

Ford has added “hands-free driving” and over-the-air updates to its Co-Pilot360 suite of technology, which will first be available to order on the new Mach-E electric SUV.

The tech, which Ford is calling Active Drive Assist, allows hands-free driving on more than 160,000 kilometres of divided highways all over Canada and the U.S. This new tech is an evolution of adaptive cruise control with lane centering and combines that tech with pre-mapped data from divided highways to ease stress and improve comfort over long drives by seeing and predicting when steering input is needed. It works a lot like Cadillac’s Super Cruise and will compete with GM's system along with Tesla's "Autopilot."

Drivers are still required to pay full attention to the road and can’t just use the “hands-off” time to take a nap or use their phones, however, and the system uses a driver-facing camera to track the position of their eyes and head position to make sure they’re still in control. If the system senses that the driver has lost focus, it will prompt the driver to pay attention to the road or resume control of the car. If the driver still doesn’t respond, the system will slow the vehicle down until the driver takes action. Ford says the system was tested in a variety of conditions like bright sun, dark nights, snow, rain, and in traffic jams an open roads.

Ford says the updated version of Co-Pilot360 will roll out on select 2021 model year vehicles but will be available on the electric Mustang Mach-E lineup first.

People who pre-ordered a Mustang Mach-E can purchase a “Ford Co-Pilot360 Active 2.0 Prep Package” that comes with the hardware necessary to enable Active Drive Assist, which will only become available in the third quarter of 2021. If they wish to buy Active Drive Assist when it’s available, they can do so via an over-the-air update or by purchasing through a certified Ford EV dealer.

The active parking assistant is included with the prep package and automates parallel and perpendicular parking. Road edge detection and blind-spot assist are also included, as are automatic highbeams, cross-traffic alert, automatic emergency braking, reverse brake assist, adaptive cruise control, and more. Ford has also updated its full-speed adaptive cruise control system to recognize speed limit signs and to enable longer 30-second stops (instead of the previous system’s 3 seconds) before driver intervention is needed to start driving again.

[Update: June 19, 2020] Ford has also announced that the Mach-E will have over-the-air updates that will help drivers more accurately predict range based on their previous driving behaviour, weather forecasts, terrain conditions, real-time traffic information, and crowd-sourced data from other Mach-E drivers. Over time, Ford says the range predictions will become more and more accurate.

Ford also says if a Mach-E driver does run out of range and gets stranded, its roadside assistance program will send a tow truck driver for free to take them to the nearest charging station, Ford dealer, or to their home, provided it's within 25 km.