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Hands-Free Driving Technology Coming To 2021 Ford F-150, Mustang Mach-E

Ford brings hands-free driving to 2021 Ford F-150, Mustang Mach-E on more than 100,000 miles of highway. Will it be a hit with truck consumers?

Hands-free driving is not autonomous driving. Let’s make that clear. But it’s under the same technological umbrella. So, no there isn’t autonomous driving in the 2021 Ford F-150 or even the Mustang Mach-E. But there will Driver Assist, which offers hands-free driving.

The Mach-E is aiming to target Tesla buyers with this type of technology, so it seems natural to include it on the all-electric Mustang crossover (that still doesn’t roll of my tongue by the way). But, that same technology is being included on the 2021 Ford F-150 and will be standard in some cases or offered with an affordable price on other trims.

But do truck buyers really want this technology? That’s what I’m not sure about. Heck some truck owners freaked out when it was announced that Ford was going to digital owner's manuals instead of a printed one. So, I'm sure there will be push back and stubborn opposition.

To be clear, the Active Drive Assist feature on the 14th-generation F-150 is not new technology. Ford is merely tapping into a network that is already being utilized by other auto manufacturers.

Several years ago, I drove a Cadillac CT6 loaded with their Super Cruise technology (essentially the same technology as what Ford is now using). I was really enthralled with this technology, so I drove a 50-mile stretch of highway without using my hands or feet. Maintaining the lane and maintaining the speed and even regulating the speed up and down was automated, and the steering was also automated, although no lane switching involved. (see the photo below of me letting Jesus take the wheel).

Jimmy Dinsmore driving the Cadillac CT6 Super Cruise hands-free

It was a wild but very cool experience and made me even more enthralled with this technology. So when I see Ford is bringing this same type of tech to the F-150 and the Mach-E, I was definitely going to write about it.

This technology takes a leap of faith and a lot of trust in the sensors and the technology. But it’s very cool. I’m sure it will be popular on the Mach-E as that’s more the right type of consumer, but Ford announced they were launching it on the 2021 F-150 too, and that made me question if this would be a hit or a miss with the truck-buying consumer.

Let’s take a look at this technology on the 2021 F-150 and how it works.

How Active Drive Assist Works
Available Active Drive Assist builds upon available Intelligent Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop-and-Go Lane Centering and Speed Sign Recognition. It allows you to operate your vehicle hands-free while the driver is monitored by a driver-facing camera to make sure you’re keeping your eyes on the road, with the potential for more enhancements in the future. This feature is available on prequalified sections of divided highways called Hands-Free Zones that make up over 100,000 miles of North American roads.

An advanced 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 when they’re using 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.

As part of the available Ford Co-Pilot360 Active 2.0 package, customers will also receive Active Park Assist 2.0, the latest iteration of park-assist technologies to give drivers some peace of mind when parking their F-150 or Mustang Mach-E. With Active Park Assist 2.0, simply holding a button will allow the vehicle to take control of parking in parallel and perpendicular spaces with ease. It also offers Park Out Assist with side-sensing capability so drivers can confidently navigate out of a parking spot when someone’s parked too close.

Active Drive Assist HMI interface on Mustang Mach-E Is Active Drive Assist Included on the F-150?
The Ford Co-Pilot 360 Active 2.0 package is standard on F-150 Limited and available as an option on Lariat, King Ranch and Platinum models. For F-150, Active Drive Assist will be available as a part of the Ford Co-Pilot 360 Active 2.0 package for $1,595.

Active Drive Assist – including forward-facing camera and radar sensors – will be available through the Ford Co-Pilot360 Active 2.0 Prep Package, while customers choosing to purchase the software for $600 will receive it through an Over-the-Air Update in the third quarter of next year.

Over-the-Air Updates are quick and easy wireless upgrades that can help enhance quality, capability and improve the ownership experience over time while reducing dealer trips. This will be an early demonstration of the Ford system’s bumper-to-bumper update capability to wirelessly update nearly all vehicle computer models, enabling the addition of this type of complex innovations that require software upgrades to vehicle functions.

For example, early F-150 customers can purchase the prep package that includes the Active Drive Assist hardware and Active Park Assist 2.0 even more affordably for $895, which includes a $100 early adopter incentive. When Active Drive Assist is ready to launch with software updates, customers will then be able to purchase the software – plus a three-year service period – for $600 and receive it via Over-the-Air Update.

In the second half of 2021, new customers will be able to purchase the hardware and software together in the Ford Co-Pilot Active 2.0 package, without the need for an Over-the-Air Update to initiate the feature.

2021 Ford F-150 towingCan You Drive Hands-Free While Towing?
The answer to this question is no, and for good reason. The F-150, even if equipped with the Active Drive Assist will not allow for that feature to operate while the truck is towing.

By offering innovative new technology on its most popular, mainstream nameplates, Ford expects to quickly expand the number of vehicles on the road equipped with hands-free driving technology based on company sales projections.

“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,” said Hau Thai-Tang, chief product platform and operations officer, Ford Motor Company. “Active Drive Assist can help improve the driving experience while ensuring people remain aware and fully in control, all for a price unmatched by our competitors – a commitment to affordable innovations that has driven us since Henry Ford put the world on wheels.”

As someone who is an early adapter of technology, I embrace these advances. As I mentioned it does take a major technological leap of faith. But it does work. I realize many of the old schoolers will be skeptical and not be interested. But I think Ford is wise to drop this into the best-selling vehicle in America and use that as a barometer to where the consumer mindset is in regard to these advances in automotive technology.

Now is your chance to chime in. Let’s hear your thoughts on this technology. Are you an early adapter or will you take a wait-and-see approach? Leave your comments below.

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.


Glenn (not verified)    February 6, 2021 - 1:02AM

Darn, I was going to buy an F150 when it could do most of the driving. The reason is I want to make long trips with my travel trailer. If it can't be used while pulling a trailer I have no reason to buy a new F150.

Glenn (not verified)    February 10, 2021 - 9:08PM

I disagree. The computer could detect and react so much quicker to a sway condition. It's keeping an eye on the steering direction, the individual wheel speeds, and with the rear camera could even detect the trailer angle. I could not find out how many times a second the computer keeps track of wheel speed but it's much much better than even the best driver who has no access to wheel speed. Then once the computer detects a sway it can quickly correct steering, acceleration, and or braking. Even more important is it can apply different braking to the trailer and each individual wheel separately. I jackknifed my trailer once. I reached for the brake controller to add braking to the trailer, but by the time I reached for it it was too late. A computer could have done that instantaneously.

Shannon Mason (not verified)    April 5, 2021 - 8:44PM

I'm quoting a line in your article: "works on any road with lane lines." this is FALSE please do you rresearch and check the Ford website, it says that ADAS only works on DIVIDED HIGHWAYS! This is NOT a TELSA truck!

Jimmy Dinsmore    April 6, 2021 - 9:18AM

In reply to by Shannon Mason (not verified)

Does Tesla pay you to comment and take things out of context? The sentence prior to this says:
This feature is available on prequalified sections of divided highways called Hands-Free Zones that make up over 100,000 miles of North American roads.

So, thanks for reading and commenting and attempting to spin this out of context.

Shannon (not verified)    April 6, 2021 - 9:55AM

In reply to by Shannon Mason (not verified)

If you wanted Tesla to pay me to write crap on your article they'd have much better things to waste their money on :P

No its not taken out of context, that's the problem with media spinners like yourself. Good thing you did your own research you should have done that the first time around when you wrote it :D

say what you want :P all that matters at the end of the day is someone will know your information isn't correct.