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We tried Ford’s BlueCruise self-driving system — here’s what we think

Go hands-free at 80 mph

Ford Bluecruise hands free driving
Ford

Ford BlueCruise is a Level 2 self-driving system that is available on several of the manufacturer’s vehicles, along with some Lincolns. It’s capable of whipping you along without any input whatsoever, so you can abandon the steering wheel and pedals as long as it’s active — though you still have to pay attention to the road. I recently got hands-on, or rather hands-off, with the latest version of BlueCruise and was quite impressed by it. The test took place on a stretch of I-10 near Palm Springs in California during moderately heavy traffic.

If you’re in a designated “Blue Zone,” and a facial scan shows you’re looking at the road, then the system will take over when prompted. You can then do what you want with your hands, as long as your eyes are pointed at the road most of the time. The system will keep your car or truck centered in its lane unless it’s overtaking a large vehicle. Then, it will move to the opposite side of the lane, provided that wouldn’t bring it dangerously close to a vehicle on that side, too.

BlueCruise handles curves in the road without an issue. It can run up to 80 miles per hour which is the highest speed limit in the United States, and that speed doesn’t seem to be location-locked so technically, you could BlueCruise along at 30 over the limit should you be unfortunate enough to live in an area with a brain-meltingly slow maximum. The speed is also dictated by traffic conditions, so the car will speed up to whatever you’ve set or slow down, depending on what the car in front is doing. BlueCruise can also suggest a lane change, which you can trigger by hitting your car’s directional. If the system hasn’t suggested a lane change, you can still move over by hitting the directional anyway.

If you take your eyes off the road to admire some scenery or pull faces at the people in other lanes, it will shout at you. If the system scolds your lack of attentiveness, it won’t also disable itself. But it is a handy reminder that you’re in charge of the vehicle and really should be paying attention. As for what to do with your now useless hands and feet? Well, that’s up to you. Just keep them relatively close to the pedals and wheel incase you do need to step in for whatever reason.

BlueCruise is limited to certain roads

Ford BlueCruise dashboard
Ford

Unfortunately, you can’t just “BlueCruise” your way through every situation. The system is limited to certain stretches of highway, though Ford claims that includes “97% of controlled access highways in the U.S. and Canada.” However, it is disabled on single track lanes, backroads, and in residential areas.

The good news with Level 2 is it’s in an area that hasn’t hit a legislative brick wall. The driver still needs to be paying attention to the road, and ready to take over at any time, so it’s fine to use in every state. Any more than BlueCruise will involve the system recognizing things like lights, stop signs, and pedestrians with a startling degree of accuracy. Level 3 systems also don’t require driver input, so current laws will need to change or be written in several states before many Americans can get behind the wheel and do nothing.

The system is subscription-based

Bluecruise menu on the F150
Ford will begin offering its new BlueCruise hands-free highway driving system to customers later this year after 500,000 miles of development testing and fine-tuning the technology on a journey across the United States and Canada. F-150 pictured. Ford

As things stand, the most expensive way to pay for BlueCruise is to do it monthly. That will cost you $75 a month, which adds up to $900 for the full year. You can save $100 by paying for the system annually, with a one-year subscription costing $800. A three-year plan on a fully equipped 2024 F-150, F-150 Lightning or Mustang Mach-E costs $2,100 — which saves $600 when compared to a monthly subscription over that length of time or $300 compared to three years of an annual subscription. If you don’t purchase the three-year plan, you will receive the 90-day trial before either canceling, opting for the monthly plan, or purchasing it at the annual rate. There is currently no option to purchase BlueCruise outright for the life of the vehicle or the lifetime of your Ford account.

Lincoln owners arguably get the best deal, with a four-year BlueCruise subscription included when a new vehicle is purchased. According to Ford, they can also activate it monthly or annually, based on their needs depending on the vehicle’s trim..

Certain vehicle trims have been known to come with two or four years of BlueCruise included. This offer, and offers like it, will coma and go from time to time — but it could be a major factor in your decision to purchase a vehicle should you like the system.

There are other level 2 systems

Bluecruise user with hands in lap
Ford will begin offering its new BlueCruise hands-free highway driving system to customers later this year after 500,000 miles of development testing and fine-tuning the technology on a journey across the United States and Canada. Mustang Mach-E pictured. Ford

BlueCruise is far from the only game in town. Several other major manufacturers, including BMW, Mercedes, Cadillac, and Tesla, have their own similar self-driving systems. The cost of these systems varies, especially over the long term, and each has a different take on the exact safety rules that are in place. But they also have a lot in common.

Top speeds are capped at 80 by Ford and a few other manufacturers, lane changes are possible, the system will come to a complete stop if necessary, you don’t need to keep your hands on the wheel, and your face or eyes will be scanned to ensure you’re paying attention while twiddling your thumbs.

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