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Ford set to offer hands-free driving in its electric Mustang model next year ito take on Tesla

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Ford set to offer hands-free driving in its electric Mustang model next year in a bid to take on Tesla

  • Ford announced it will be offering hands-free driving technology in 2021
  • The feature is optional, but can be added in the  Mustang Mach-E electric SUV
  • The firm will also allow owners of other 2021 vehicles to add the system
  • Called Active Drive Assist, it uses infrared cameras to track the driver’s gaze
  • It also monitors head position to ensure the driver is always watching the road
  • If the driver becomes distracted, the system will warn them to look ahead 

Ford is set to equip its Mustang Mach-E electric SUV with a hands-free driving system in a bid to compete with powerhouse Tesla.

The new Mustang is hitting the market later this year and consumers will have the option to add hardware that enable hands-free driving, but the software will not be available until 2021.

The software, called Active Drive Assist, is part of Ford Co-Pilot360 and provides hands-free abilities for more than 100,000 miles of divided, pre-mapped highways across the US and Canada.

What separates Ford’s technology from Tesla’s, is the Active Drive Assist tracks the driver’s eye gaze and head position to ensure they are watching the road at all times.

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The software, called Active Drive Assist, is part of Ford Co-Pilot360 and provides hands-free abilities for more than 100,000 miles of divided, pre-mapped highways across the US and Canada

The software, called Active Drive Assist, is part of Ford Co-Pilot360 and provides hands-free abilities for more than 100,000 miles of divided, pre-mapped highways across the US and Canada

Hau Thai-Tang, Ford’s chief product development and purchasing officer, said in the announcement: ‘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.’

‘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.’

The hands-free driving technology is designed to ease the burden of long trips, but also ensures the driver does not fall asleep at the wheel.

‘The stress of long highway drives remains a huge issue for drivers around the world,’ said Thai-Tang.

What separates Ford's technology from Tesla's, is the Active Drive Assist tracks the driver's eye gaze and head position to ensure they are watching the road at all times

What separates Ford’s technology from Tesla’s, is the Active Drive Assist tracks the driver’s eye gaze and head position to ensure they are watching the road at all times

The new Mustang Mach-E electric SUV (pictured) is hitting the market later this year and consumers will have the option to add hardware that enable hands-free driving, but the software will not be available until 2021

The new Mustang Mach-E electric SUV (pictured) is hitting the market later this year and consumers will have the option to add hardware that enable hands-free driving, but the software will not be available until 2021

‘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.’

The hands-free mode can only be used on certain roads that have been pre-mapped and also through divided highways.

The hardware includes an infrared driver-facing camera that tracks eye gaze and head position to ensure drivers are paying attention to the road while in Hands-Free Mode as well as hands-on Lane Centering Mode, which works on any road with lane lines.

If a driver takes their eyes off the road, a warning appears that encourages them to turn their gaze ahead – something that has plagued Tesla’s self-driving system.

Tesla was recently faulted for a fatal accident in 2018, which was caused by the driver using the vehicle’s Autopilot system while being distracted by a mobile device.

If a driver takes their eyes off the road, a warning appears that encourages them to turn their gaze ahead – something that has plagued Tesla's self-driving system. Tesla was recently faulted for a fatal accident in 2018 (pictured)

If a driver takes their eyes off the road, a warning appears that encourages them to turn their gaze ahead – something that has plagued Tesla’s self-driving system. Tesla was recently faulted for a fatal accident in 2018 (pictured) 

‘Limitations within the Autopilot system caused the SUV to veer towards the area with a concrete barrier that it ultimately struck, which the driver didn’t attempt to stop due to distraction,’ the National Transportation Safety Board explained in February 2020.

Ford’s Active Drive Assist will be an option on select 2021 model-year Ford vehicles, as well as the entire family of Mustang Mach-E cars. 

‘Ford plans to give customers who purchase the prep package the opportunity to purchase Active Drive Assist software and receive the feature at a Ford dealer or via an over-the-air update expected in the third quarter of 2021,’ the company shared in a statement.

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