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Ford Makes Advances In Hands-Free Driving Through Co-Pilot 360 In Mustang Mach-E, Sets Sights on Tesla

Ford Co-Pilot 360 gets major overhaul and updates to offer a comprehensive collection of driver-assist features, including hands-free driving technology and more over-the-air updates. New technology first available in Mustang Mach-E but will likely end up in future Ford vehicles.


There’s a lot of uncertainty when it comes to autonomous driving amongst the American consumer. It seems like many are intrigued and interested, but most show skepticism too when it comes to this technology. But, like it or not, this is a major part of the future of the automotive industry.

This week, Ford made a big announcement regarding a new version of their Co-Pilot 360 Technology. The newest advancement adds new offerings including Active Drive Assist, allowing for hands-free driving on more than 100,000 miles of divided highways in all 50 states and Canada.

“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.”

According to Ford, Active Drive Assist is the next evolution of Intelligent Adaptive Cruise Control with Lane Centering from Ford, adding a first-for-Ford Hands-Free Mode with the potential for more enhancements in the future.

Active Drive Assist HMI in Ford Mustang Mach-EHow Does Hands-Free Driving Work?
This is not a new technology. It has been around for several years. Cadillac has implemented it in their CT6 vehicle, and I got to experience that technology first hand. I admit it was quite exhilarating and fun, but it requires a lot of trust in the technology.

The Hands-Free Mode in the Ford Co-Pilot 360 allows drivers on certain sections of pre-mapped, divided highways to drive with their hands off the steering wheel – if they continue to pay attention to the road ahead – granting them an additional level of comfort during long drives.

An advanced infrared driver-facing camera will track 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. Drivers will be notified by visual prompts on their instrument cluster when they need to return their attention to the road or resume 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.”

Mach-E Co-Pilot 360 With Drive Assist

Active Drive Assist begins rolling out on select 2021 model year Ford vehicles and will be available across the Mustang Mach-E lineup.

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

I first wrote about Ford’s advancement in over-the-air updates a couple of weeks ago. This is the future of automotive repair.

Mustang Mach-E OTA updatesHow Does Over-The-Air Updating Work?
Minor updates like Sync infotainment will be done seamlessly. But this technology goes beyond just minor infotainment updates.

According to Ford, nearly all Mustang Mach-E computer modules can be updated wirelessly, meaning Ford can provide performance enhancements and entirely new features that might not exist when customers first take delivery of their vehicles.

Some installations will be virtually invisible to customers, who can select a regular time – such as the middle of the night – for updates while their Mustang Mach-E is parked. Many updates will be completed almost instantly after a customer starts their vehicle, while in-vehicle alerts will tell them what improvements have been installed. Many can be completed in under two minutes, and more complex updates that might require the vehicle to be parked for longer can be scheduled to take place when customers find it most convenient.

Ford also said that this technology will start in the Mach-E but stretch to many other products in the Ford family. In 2020, Ford will begin equipping most redesigned vehicles in the U.S. with advanced over-the-air update capability for quick and easy wireless upgrades that can help enhance quality, capability and improve the ownership experience over time while reducing dealer trips, according to information provided by Ford.

How Does Mustang Mach-E Compare To Tesla Model Y
Ford has never officially said that the Mach-E is aimed at Tesla as a competitor. But when Ford released this press release about the Co-Pilot 360 advances, they provided an interesting infographic (below) that points out all the Mach-E has versus the Tesla Model Y. So clearly, Ford is taking the competition to Tesla.

Mustang Mach-E vs. Tesla Model Y

Two main features Ford claims the Mach-E has that the Tesla Model Y doesn’t have are: Cross-Traffic Alert and Hands-Free Driving. According to information provided by Ford: The updated Lane-Keeping System joins Auto High-Beam Headlamps, Blind Spot Information System with Cross-Traffic Alert, Pre-Collision Assist with Automatic Emergency Braking, Post-Collision Braking, Rear View Camera, Reverse Brake Assist and Reverse Sensing System as technologies on the Mustang Mach-E Ford Co-Pilot360 2.0 standard package.

The Model Y seems like the perfect comparison vehicle to the Mach-E. How these two vastly different companies wage a friendly war against each other will be interesting. Between Mach-E vs. Model Y and Ford F-150 EV vs. Tesla Cybertruck, the competition is heating up for sure.

So what say you? I definitely want to hear your thoughts on this new cutting-edge technology. Do you trust it. Leave a comment with your thoughts. I’ll leave you with this quote from Justin Teems, Active Drive Assist feature lead:

“Our team has aggressively tested Active Drive Assist to bring something to our customers’ lives that they can trust. We go to far-flung places around the U.S. and Canada – from Florida to California, from Quebec to Texas, Wyoming and Idaho – to try to stimulate those rare-case sensor measurements we might not get anywhere else, capturing data in a number of different ways.”

Jimmy Dinsmore has been an automotive journalist for more than a decade and been a writer since the high school. His Driver’s Side column features new car reviews and runs in several newspapers throughout the country. He is also co-author of the book “Mustang by Design” and “Ford Trucks: A Unique Look at the Technical History of America’s Most Popular Truck”. Also, Jimmy works in the social media marketing world for a Canadian automotive training aid manufacturing company. Follow Jimmy on Facebook, Twitter, at his special Ford F-150 coverage on Twitter and LinkedIn. You can read the most of Jimmy's stories by searching Torque News Ford for daily Ford vehicle report.