Ford to debut hands-free driving on new F-150, Mach-E

Jordyn Grzelewski
The Detroit News

Ford Motor Co.'s new, hands-free driving technology will soon come standard on certain new F-150 and Mach-E models, the automaker said Friday.

The Blue Oval earlier this year announced the addition of Active Drive Assist, an advancement of its driver-assistance technologies that allows for hands-free driving on more than 100,000 miles of divided highways in the U.S. and Canada.

John Gilchrist, Mustang Mach-E engineer, demonstrates Active Drive Assist, a new driver-assist feature that allows for hands-free driving on more than 100,000 miles of divided highways in all 50 states and Canada.

The automaker said Friday that the new technology will debut in the redesigned 2021 F-150 and the all-new electric Mustang Mach-E, both of which are in production and slated for release later this year.

Ford expects to launch Active Drive Assist in the third quarter of 2021; customers who purchase certain trim levels of the new F-150 or Mach-E before the new technology is ready will have the option to buy a package that will allow the vehicles to update once it's ready.

The technology is comparable to Cadillac Super Cruise, a hands-free driving assistance feature that was first introduced in the now-defunct Cadillac CT6 sedan and is set to be available in 22 vehicles, including on some GMC and Chevy vehicles, by 2025. The program recently topped Consumer Reports' list of driver-assistance systems.

Ford's Active Drive Assist allows drivers to operate their vehicles hands-free on prequalified highways, while they are monitored by a driver-facing camera that ensures they are keeping their eyes on the road. The camera will track the driver's eye gaze and head position when they are using either "hands-free mode" or the hands-on "lane centering mode."

Visual cues will alert the driver to return their eyes to the road or put their hands back on the wheel.

The new offering builds on Ford's existing Co-Pilot360 technology, which includes driver-assistance features such as adaptive cruise-control, parking assistance and a lane-keeping system, among others.

"As breakthroughs in new technology allow us to help reduce the stress of long highway drives, it's important to make sure these capabilities can be enjoyed by the largest spread of people possible," Hau Thai-Tang, Ford's chief product platform and operations officer, said in a statement. 

Active Drive Assist will come standard on certain F-150 and Mach-E models. Customers will have the option to add the program onto other trim levels of the vehicles. 

2021 Ford Mustang Mach E

On F-150, the feature will be available for $1,595 as part of the Co-Pilot360 Active 2.0 package. That package is standard on F-150 Limited and is available as an option on the F-150 Lariat, King Ranch and Platinum models.

On Mach-E, Active Drive Assist will be standard on Premium, First Edition and CA Route 1 models. It will also be available on the Select trim level for $3,200 as part of a "comfort and technology" package.

Customers who purchase the F-150 or Mach-E before Active Drive Assist is available can opt to add a Co-Pilot360 package that will enable the software to be downloaded via a wireless update next year. 

Early 2021 F-150 customers, for example, can purchase the prep package for $895, which includes a $100 discount. Once the new technology is ready for release, customers can purchase the software for $600. The feature is available for a three-year service period, after which customers must pay to re-up it.

In the second half of 2021, new F-150 and Mach-E buyers can purchase the hardware and software together. No wireless updates will be needed to activate Active Drive Assist at that point.

Ford says it expects to sell more than 100,000 F-150 and Mach-E models equipped with Active Drive Assist hardware in the new vehicles' first year. It expects 80% of Mustang Mach-E vehicles will be equipped with hands-free technology.

Twitter: @JGrzelewski