The United Kingdom has become the first European nation to allow hands-free driving technology, as Ford’s BlueCruise technology has received approval. It means that drivers are allowed to take their hands off the wheel and allow the car to drive itself. However, they must still pay attention to what it is doing, and will receive alerts if the car detects they are looking elsewhere.
The new technology is currently available in Ford’s 2023 Mustang Mach-E, a pure electric vehicle. Five radars track the position and speed of other vehicles, while a forward-facing camera detects lane markings and speed signs. With a cost of £17.99 a month, BlueCruise can be activated to control functions such as steering, acceleration, braking and lane positioning on the vast majority of the UK’s motorways.
Although users can take their hands off the wheel, an infrared camera checks they are keeping their eyes on the road in case human intervention is required. If the system detects a driver is not paying attention, warning messages will be displayed on the dashboard, followed by audible alerts and then the automatic slowing of the vehicle. The same process is followed if a vehicle leaves a motorway.
The technology was introduced in the US and Canada last year. Fully self-driving cars remain banned on public roads in the UK apart from during Government-approved trials. Legislation to approve the technology could be introduced as early as 2025.