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Most Ford Mustang Mach-E EVs Will Be Built with Hands-Free Driving Capability

Most Ford Mustang Mach-E EVs Will Be Built with Hands-Free Driving Capability
  • ford's previously announced active driver assist hands-free driving feature will be on most of the mustang mach-e evs being built, part of the automaker's co-pilot360 technology.
  • the cars will be assembled with the active driver assist prep kit on board, ready for an over-the-air upgrade when it's available later this year, although owners must pay a $600 activation fee.
  • the feature will be similar to gm's super cruise in that it will work only on a limited set of divided highways—for now, about 100,000 miles' worth in north america, only half of what gm's system offers.

    so, what's that plastic trapezoid perched atop the steering column of the 2021 ford mustang mach-e? it's an infrared driver-facing camera, just like the ones you find on gm vehicles with super cruise. and although you can see lights behind its smoked plastic window, its unblinking gaze isn't yet relevant to the mach-e's capabilities. but it soon will be, because ford is working hard to join gm in offering a hands-free driver assist system. following tesla's driver-assist strategy, ford is building in the hardware now, so cars will be ready when the software is. and ford says most mach-es being built include the active driver assist prep kit.

    the system will go live sometime this fall with an over-the-air update—no need for a dealer visit to activate the system. and it will be a paid upgrade, according to the mach-e ordering site, which says, "active drive assist functionality expected 3rd quarter 2021 cy. separate payment for feature software required to activate full functionality at that time." that'll cost $600 for activation and a three-year service period, though ford isn't saying how much it'll cost to keep your active drive assist beyond that three years.

    on the f-150 pickup, active drive assist is available as a stand-alone option (well, with active park assist 2.0) for $895, which includes a $100 early adopter incentive. on the mach-e, it tends to be bundled. it's standard on ca route 1, first edition, and premium trims and available on the select trim as part of the $3200 comfort and technology package. (which includes some totally unrelated goodies, like heated front seats and a heated steering wheel.)

    like super cruise, active driver assist will track the driver's eye movement to ensure you're not asleep or in the back seat while the hands-free mode is engaged. also like super cruise, it'll only work on divided highways (or, in ford verbiage, a "hands-free zone"). ford's system builds on the radar adaptive cruise and camera-based lane-keeping technology that have been around for years, with the driver-facing camera ensuring that the driver is available to take over. which, if it's anything like gm's early super cruise iterations, will be a regular occurrence.

    ford says the system will engage on more than 100,000 miles of highway in north america, which is well short of super cruise's more than 200,000 miles of coverage. last year gm updated super cruise to allow it to navigate some roads with intersections. it's doubtful the ford system will have that ability—at least, not initially.

    the mach-e, in any of its guises, is good fun to drive. soon we'll get a chance to find out how well it works when it's driving itself.

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