Motorway drivers can take hands off wheel as self-driving system approved

The UK has become the first in Europe to approve a hands-free driving system.

Drivers on Britain’s motorways are being allowed to let go of steering wheels for the first time, after the UK became the first European country to approve a hands-free system.

Ford said it has been given the go-ahead by the Government to switch on its BlueCruise self-driving technology.

The system is only available on the 2023 Ford Mustang Mach-E, a pure electric vehicle.

Five radars track the position and speed of other vehicles, while a forward-facing camera detects lane markings and speed signs.

At a cost of £17.99 a month, BlueCruise can be activated to control functions such as steering, acceleration, braking and lane positioning on the vast majority of Britain’s motorways.

Although users can take their hands off the wheel, an infrared camera checks they are keeping their eyes on the road in case human intervention is required.

If the system detects a driver is not paying attention, warning messages will be displayed on the dashboard, followed by audible alerts and then the automatic slowing of the vehicle.

The same process happens if a vehicle leaves a motorway.

Transport minister Jesse Norman said: “It is great news that Ford has chosen Great Britain for the European launch of their BlueCruise technology, and I am delighted that this country is once more at the forefront of innovation.

“The latest advanced driver assistance systems make driving smoother and easier, but they can also make roads safer by reducing scope for driver error.”

Lisa Brankin, Ford’s managing director for the UK and Ireland, said: “Today marks a significant moment for our industry as Ford BlueCruise becomes the first hands-free driving system of its kind to receive approval for use in Great Britain.

“We have always strived to make technology accessible for our customers, and BlueCruise is this next step on this journey, making motorway driving a more comfortable experience.”

Ford engineers conducted test drives of its latest assistance systems, including BlueCruise, covering 100,000 miles on European roads.

Testing in Britain featured routes with hazards such as worn-out lane markings poor weather and roadworks.

Ford said it will roll out BlueCruise to more of its vehicles “in the coming years”.

The system was introduced in the US and Canada last year.

Fully self-driving cars remain banned on public roads in the UK apart from during Government-approved trials.

Legislation to approve the technology could be introduced as early as 2025.

The Mustang Mach-E costs from £50,830.

The first 90 days of BlueCruise is free, after which users are charged the monthly subscription fee.

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