Sign up for the Design News Daily newsletter.
January 31, 2024
4 Min Read
The Ford Mustang Mach-E's splashy start-up screen.Ford Motor Co.
At a Glance
- BlueCruise active driver assistance has improved its ability to hold a smooth line through turns.
- There are fewer false alarms warning the driver to keep their eyes on the road.
- Lane changes are automated, so the BlueCruise system stays active when passing slower traffic.
Ford is upgrading the charging hardware for the 2024 Mustang Mach-E, addressing a frequent complaint about the company’s popular SUV’s speed when using DC fast charging stations. But our 2023 test vehicle was saddled with the old, slow charging system, and we saw the 54-kilowatt charging rate on a 350-kW charger to prove it.
While Ford cannot upgrade the hardware on existing vehicles like our test car, the company can upgrade software systems through over-the-air updates, and the Mustang Mach-E shows the benefit of the continuous improvement of the BlueCruise hands-free active driver assistance system.
As a reminder, active driver assistance systems like BlueCruise let the driver relax, with hands off the steering wheel. Ford’s system employs a detailed map of highways and only engages in suitable conditions. A camera in the cabin watches the driver to ensure that the driver is alert and watching the road ahead, not doom scrolling through social media on their phone.
These are important distinctions between BlueCruise and Tesla’s much-abused Autopilot system, which doesn’t restrict its operation as tightly and doesn’t monitor drivers to ensure they’re still in charge of the car.
When BlueCruise debuted in 2021 it was noticeably inferior to GM’s similar Super Cruise. But a few over-the-air updates later and by 2022 BlueCruise snatched the top ranking from Super Cruise in Consumer Reports’ comparison.
BlueCruise 1.0 was prone to pinballing between the lane’s edges rather than holding a confident position in the center of the lane, and if it was experiencing this when negotiating a curve, the system could get overwhelmed and disengage.
This was the first improvement Ford made, with BlueCruise showing the ability to smoothly hold the center of the lane through curves with none of the confidence-eroding mid-corner corrections exhibited previously. The system even puts up a good fight against stiff crosswinds when driving on blustery days.
But when I last drove a Mustang Mach-E in 2022, the system was still prone to falsely accusing the driver of not keeping eyes on the road, which is irritating to drivers who are supposed to be able to relax. Checking the mirrors, reading highway signs, or any other glance away from straight ahead could trigger the alert to pay attention.
With its recent upgrades, that nuisance is gone. The system also used to struggle seeing into deep shadows from bright sunlight and would frequently disengage while driving under overpasses on bright days. Again, in the 2023 Mach-E, that problem has been addressed.
BlueCruise also improved the ease of activating the system, as it quickly indicates its availability when the car is centered in the lane, with none of the fiddliness about being in the precise location to satisfy the computer’s requirements before it would take over.
This is helpful because the system has added automatic lane-changing ability to its feature list. When approaching a slower vehicle ahead in the right lane, a left turn signal prompts BlueCruise to steer the Mach-E around the obstacle. Once past the slower vehicle, a right turn signal cues the car to drive back into the right lane.
Sometimes, when it looks like the lane change opportunity needs to be executed more quickly and decisively than BlueCruise will manage, the driver takes over to complete the pass. The improved ease of re-engaging the system makes the driver feel less regret about disengaging it now that it turns right back on easily.
The BlueCruise activation screen leaves no doubt when the system is on, but can be blindingly bright at night. FORD MOTOR CO.
BlueCruise also has a very clear indication of activation when it is operating: the instrument display goes bright Ford blue. This helps confirm without any confusion when BlueCruise has the wheel. However, when driving at night, this blue screen is ruinous to the human driver’s night vision, glaring like an afternoon sky directly into the driver’s eyes.
So, my request for the next over-the-air update is for Ford to find a way to maintain a clear indication of BlueCruise operation but do so in a way that is not so blindingly bright for the driver at night. Hopefully, we’ll see still more upgrades to the system when we get to test the faster-charging 2024 Mustang Mach-E.
You May Also Like
Video: How to Use Ford's NACS Adapter for Tesla SuperchargersMar 1, 2024
Breakthrough PPG Matte Clear Film Wraps New MustangsMar 1, 2024|3 Min Read
Taxicabs May Not Be So Bad After AllMar 1, 2024|5 Min Read
Top 20 Companies for Electrical EngineersMar 1, 2024|20 Slides