US Probes Ford BlueCruise Driver Assistance Over Crashes

Ford's Mustang Mach-E electric vehicle. Image credit: Ford

US highway safety agency opens formal investigation into Ford BlueCruise following two fatal crashes in which AI-powered system was engaged

A US road safety regulator has opened a formal probe into Ford’s BlueCruise driver-assistance software after two fatal collisions this year that occurred while the system was in use.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said both collisions involved electric Ford Mustang Mach-E vehicles that collided with stationary vehicles at night while BlueCruise was engaged.

In February a Mach-E using BlueCruise collided with a stationary Honda in San Antonio, killing the 56-year-old driver of the Honda, while the other incident occurred in March in Philadelphia.

Both crashes involved vehicles stopped in a driving lane on a highway, the NHTSA said.

AI artificial intelligence ford

AI probe

Ford told Silicon UK that it is working with the NHTSA “to support its investigation”.

The NHTSA says its preliminary probe will focus on the driver monitoring aspect of the system, as well as its general handling of driving tasks.

The two crashes are being investigated separately by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), another US road safety agency.

BlueCruise allows hands-free driving on pre-mapped roads, typically motorways, and uses cameras to keep vehicles in their lanes.

UK approval

Cameras also track drivers’ eyes to ensure they are paying attention, although drivers are allowed to take their hands off the wheel.

The NHTSA said its preliminary investigation is to focus on the driver-monitoring aspects of BlueCruise as well as the general quality of its handling of driving tasks.

The system, introduced in the US in 2021, received UK government approval last April and is currently the only driver assistance system in the country that allows users to take their hands off the wheel.

BlueCruise operates on specified sections of UK roads up to a maximum of 81mph.

Tesla Autopilot probe

At the time of launch transport minister Jesse Norman said driver-assistance systems “can… help make roads safer by reducing scope for driver error”.

The NHTSA on Friday launched a probe into the effectiveness of Tesla’s over-the-air recall in December of its Autopilot driver-assistance feature over safety issues, specifically Autopilot’s systems for monitoring driver engagement.

Unlike BlueCruise, Autopilot requires users to keep their hands on the steering wheel, although the NHTSA found Tesla’s mechanisms for ensuring this were easily defeated.