Ford Hands-Free Tech Faces Probe After Fatal Crashes

The two fatal incidents involved Ford Mustang Mach E models fitted with Ford's Blue Cruise Advanced Driver Assistance System

Graham Hope

April 30, 2024

3 Min Read
A woman sits behind the steering wheel of a Ford outfitted with Blue Cruise's Advanced Driver Assistance System

Federal investigators have launched a probe into Ford’s hands-free Advanced Driver Assistance System, Blue Cruise.

The move, by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), comes just a couple of weeks after it emerged that the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) was looking at two fatal incidents involving Ford Mustang Mach E models fitted with the technology.

Now the NHTSA has stepped in with an Office of Defects Investigation (ODI) into the same two accidents.

The ODI will aim to establish to what extent Blue Cruise was involved in the accidents and “evaluate the system’s performance of the dynamic driving task and driver monitoring.”

The two crashes in question took place in San Antonio, Texas and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

On both occasions, a Mustang Mach E operating Blue Cruise ran into a stationary vehicle, causing one fatality in Texas and two in Pennsylvania.

According to documentation published on the NHTSA website to accompany the ODI, the stationary vehicles “were located within the travel lanes of controlled access highways” and the incidents “occurred during nighttime lighting conditions.”

Blue Cruise offers hands-free driving and operates on 97% of controlled access highways across the United States and Canada, assisting with steering, braking and acceleration, facilitating maneuvers such as lane changes. But drivers must be prepared to intervene if necessary at all times.

Related:Ford Hands-off Driving Offered Via Subscription

It is available on the Mustang Mach E and some F-150 models, plus Lincoln SUVs.

As the ODI specifies, the tech uses a camera-based driver monitoring system to determine driver attentiveness to the roadway and NHTSA investigators are likely to be keen to establish just how effective this feature is.

This is particularly relevant in light of its recent investigation into Tesla’s hands-free offerings, Autopilot and Full Self Driving, which like Blue Cruise, are rated as providing Level 2 autonomy by the Society of Automotive Engineers.

The Tesla probe, which has only just been shut down, looked at hundreds of crashes, 13 of which resulted in fatalities and many more that caused serious injuries. It concluded that “Autopilot’s system controls and warnings were insufficient for a driver assistance system that requires constant supervision by a human driver.”

While Ford’s monitoring tech has clear differences from Tesla’s, the central issue in both cases is arguably the same – assessing whether hands-off functionality generally is encouraging complacency in users.

The agency’s involvement is significant, in that it is more likely to have consequences for Ford. While the NTSB’s remit is to try to identify a fault and it can make recommendations, it falls to the NHTSA to act on these if necessary – to the extent it can order a recall for remedial work.

Related:Ford Hands-Off Tech Used by Driver in Fatal Crash

Ford is said to be cooperating with the investigation.

About the Author(s)

Graham Hope

Graham Hope has worked in automotive journalism in the U.K. for 26 years, including spells as editor of leading consumer news website and weekly Auto Express and respected buying guide CarBuyer.

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