Hitting the Road With BlueCruise, Ford’s Hands-Free Highway Helper

BlueCruise is Ford’s latest and greatest advanced driver-assistance feature. This technology, which is available on select vehicles, enables hands-free motoring on certain sections of divided highway. I put this Super Cruise imitator to the test on a nearly 700-mile round-trip drive to Northern Michigan and the results are positive — with a couple caveats, of course.

BlueCruise basics

But first things first, let’s cover what BlueCruise is and what it is not. This technology is a hands-free driving aid that only works on approved, divided highways, so-called Blue Zones, of which there are about 130,000 miles of in North America. The system can accelerate, steer and stop the vehicle as traffic and road conditions dictate. In simple terms, think of this as a hands-free version of adaptive cruise control with lane centering.

Of course, BlueCruise does not make your vehicle fully autonomous. When engaged, you cannot take a nap, play Wordle, organize your collection of superhero action figures, anything like that. So, don’t even think about whipping out your phone. There’s a surprisingly sensitive driver-monitoring camera system that makes sure you’re looking ahead and paying attention, because you have to intervene if the system needs it.

There are situations, as I learned on or lengthy drive up Michigan’s I-75, that will cause BlueCruise to temporarily disengage, to revert to conventional adaptive cruise control where you have to steer. For starters, visibility might be poor. If it’s raining or snowing heavily the system will have issues. Lane markers could also be faded or obscured, BlueCruise may be averse to orange barrels, that is, have trouble in areas where construction is taking place and, of course, the system will disengage if you drive out of a Blue Zone.

Action and inaction

If all this sounds familiar, it should. Ford basically built a version of General Motors‘ groundbreaking Super Cruise, which launched in the Cadillac CT6 sedan and has been out for about five years. The functionality of these two systems is basically the same, though Enhanced Super Cruise, the latest and greatest version, does has two significant advantages. First, it can automatically change lanes. Just tap the turn signal stalk and if there’s nothing in the way, the vehicle will move over all on its own. Second, you can tow with Enhanced Super Cruise, trailer your boat to the lake for a long weekend without having to steer, or at least, steer as much. Undoubtedly, Ford engineers are hard at work developing similar features that will be enabled in future updates.

Once you’re on an approved divided highway, BlueCruise is a snap to engage. Just set your desired speed and the system activates. It starts in adaptive mode with lane centering, something that’s indicated within the meter cluster by an icon of a steering wheel with hands on it. After the system finds its bearings, BlueCruise usually engages a few seconds later, with a large steering wheel icon emblazoned with „Hands-Free“ taking up a sizable chunk of the digital gauges. This is nice because everything is clearly illustrated, there’s no ambiguity as to whether you need to steer or not. The clean iconography is also undoubtedly helpful for folks with color-blindness.

Hands-free driving on the highway can be very relaxing. 

Nick Miotke/Roadshow

Putting it to the test, BlueCruise works as advertised. The system steers smoothly and has no trouble with surrounding traffic. It’s not quite as sure of itself as Super Cruise is; the Ford system tends to make more small steering wheel corrections and can ping-pong slightly between lane markers when going through tighter corners. Despite these minor issues, the system is confidence-inspiring and makes long highway drives much more relaxing.

In testing, the biggest weakness of BlueCruise is how it handles off-ramps. When a new exit lane opens and you’re driving ahead in the adjacent lane, the system will sometimes disengage, revert back to conventional adaptive cruise control. Fortunately, BlueCurise usually reengages a few seconds later once it figures out you’re not headed for the ditch, but this is still a bit annoying and it happens more often than I’d like.

This system’s driver-monitoring cameras are surprisingly sensitive. If you pick up a bottle of water or cup of coffee to take a swig, you’d better be quick, because the system will start beeping at you if your face is blocked for more than just a couple seconds. Again, don’t try to send an email while driving or look up sports scores. BlueCruise will know what you’re trying to do and the system will not like it.

BlueCruise is currently available on the F-150 pickup and Mustang Mach-E SUV, though it’s coming to more products in the future. 

Nick Miotke/Roadshow

Availability and pricing

BlueCruise is currently available on just two models, higher-end versions of the F-150 — like the fancy Platinum-trim example tested here — and the Mustang Mach-E all-electric SUV. The Lincoln version of this tech is called ActiveGlide (try not to laugh) and it’s available on the 2022 Navigator. Of course, more nameplates, including the refreshed Ford Expedition, will be offered with this hands-free driving capability in the future.

As for pricing, on the 2022 F-150, BlueCruise should be available on the Lariat High trim and above (though not the Raptor) as part of the Ford Co-Pilot 360 Active 2.0 Package, which also includes a forward sensing system and Active Park Assist 2.0. This options group is priced at $1,995, though BlueCruise — and just about everything else — is standard on the range-topping F-150 Limited. Fortunately, things are a little simpler with the Mach-E. This hands-free driving aid is currently included in the $3,200 Comfort and Technology Package, which also bundles a bunch of other amenities. Higher-performance GT models offer BlueCruise in the $1,900 Ford Co-Pilot 360 Active 2.0 and 360-Degree Camera options group. If you get a vehicle equipped with BlueCruise, you’ll be set for three years. After that, a separate subscription fee will be required, though Ford has not released any details about what this entails.

With all those numbers and options packages out of the way, is BlueCruise worth it? I’d say yes, absolutely. This hands-free helper got us to our destination and back again safely with few interruptions. The system is mostly smooth and exceedingly easy to use, though it should get even better with future updates.

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