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Ford Active Drive Assist Brings Hands-Free Driving To Ford Vehicles

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Ford’s Co-Pilot 360 suite of driver-assist features is getting a new addition with the launch of Ford Active Drive Assist with Hands-Free Mode – a new feature that allows for driving with the hands off the wheel on highways in the U.S. and Canada.

Ford Active Drive Assist with Hands-Free Mode is the next evolution of Ford’s previously-available Intelligent Adaptive Cruise Control with Lane Centering. The “Hands Free Mode” name is important, since the feature is no means a fully autonomous system that allows the driver to completely disconnect from the task of driving. Instead, Hands-Free Mode enables the driver to take their hands off the wheel, while requiring that he or she continue paying attention to the road ahead.

Ford’s primary goal with Active Drive Assist with Hands-Free Mode is to make highway driving easier and more comfortable, particularly when it comes to long drives.

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“The stress of long highway drives remains a huge issue for drivers around the world,” said Hau Thai-Tang, Ford’s chief product development and purchasing officer. “By introducing driver-assist technologies like Active Drive Assist, Ford’s version of hands-free driving, we’re allowing our customers to feel more confident whenever they’re behind the wheel.”

Hands-Free Mode allows hands-free driving on more than 100,000 miles of pre-mapped, divided highways in all 50 U.S. states and Canada. However, the system requires the driver to continue paying attention to the road ahead – granting them an additional level of comfort during long drives.

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When Hands-Free Mode is activated, the vehicle utilizes an advanced infrared driver-facing camera to track eye gaze and head position to ensure drivers are paying attention to the road. Visual prompts on the vehicle’s instrument cluster will be displayed when the system determines that the driver needs to return their attention to the road or take over control of the vehicle.

“Introducing Active Drive Assist with a driver-facing camera makes perfect sense because the vehicle helps relieve the stress and burden of driving but still leaves you fully in control,” said Thai-Tang. “And if you lose focus on the road ahead, Active Drive Assist will automatically warn and potentially slow the vehicle down until you’re ready to focus back up.”

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Ford will launch Active Drive Assist on select 2021 model year vehicles, with the first model to be announced being the Mustang Mach-E. The Blue Oval says that the feature will available across the Mustang Mach-E lineup. However, the way it will roll out is a bit unordinary.

Customers who will be among the first to order a Mustang Mach-E will have the ability to also order the Active Drive Assist hardware, itself part of the Ford Co-Pilot360 Active 2.0 Prep Package, at the time of purchase. Doing so equips the vehicle with the necessary hardware. However, that does not enable the Active Drive Assist nor Hands-Free Mode once vehicle is delivered to the customer.

To get the feature working, owners will need to purchase Active Drive Assist software and receive the feature at a Ford EV certified dealer or via an over-the-air update, which is expected in the third quarter of 2021 – about nine months after the very first units of the Mustang Mach-E begin shipping to customers.

We’ll have much more about the new Ford Active Drive Assist with Hands-Free driving very soon, so be sure to subscribe to Ford Authority for more Ford Technology news, Mustang Mach-E news, Ford Mustang news and around-the-clock Ford news coverage.

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Written by Alex Luft

Ford Authority founder with a passion for global automotive business strategy.

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2 Comments

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  1. “focus back up.” Are you backing up a Focus? Joking aside, I wonder if this system is similar to Cadillac’s Super Cruise which also used premapped roads and a driver facing camera. How will the Ford system alert the driver? The Cadillac system flashes a light on the top of the steering wheel, so the Ford system has to do similar or better.

    • Yeah, the “focus back up” could have been said/written differently. Alas, it’s a quote… so not much we can do there.

      From what I understand thus far, the way the Ford system works is by interacting with the driver via the instrument cluster.

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