Ford’s BlueCruise is an advanced active driving assistance (ADA) system that allows for hands-free driving on the highway. The system takes over the car’s steering, braking and acceleration, making micro-adjustments to keep the car in the center of the lane and maintain a safe distance from the vehicle ahead. While the experience of watching the steering wheel turn on its own can be eerie, the feeling of being able to relax with your hands off the wheel can be quite amazing. However, it is important to note that cars that can truly and safely drive themselves remain a long way off.
BlueCruise is what’s known as an active driving assistance (ADA) system. In the simplest terms, ADA is the simultaneous use of a car’s adaptive cruise control (ACC) to control speed and lane centering assistance (LCA) to control steering. ACC is an advanced form of cruise control that brakes or accelerates to keep the car a set distance from vehicles traveling ahead of you in your lane. LCA provides steering support to keep the vehicle at or near the center of the lane.
According to Consumer Reports’ senior director of auto testing, Jake Fisher, “Systems like BlueCruise are an important advancement that can help make driving easier and less stressful.” These systems can allow drivers to relax their grip and even periodically let go of the steering wheel, while the car maintains a safe distance from other vehicles when driving on a straight, boring section of highway, or when stuck in a traffic jam. ADA systems can also have safety benefits, such as potentially keeping you from crossing over a lane line into opposing traffic during a moment of inattention.
However, it’s important to remember that these systems are not self-driving cars. Fisher states, “they don’t make a car self-driving at all. Instead, they create a new way of collaboratively driving with the computers in your car. When automakers do it the right way, it can make driving safer and more convenient. When they do it the wrong way, it can be dangerous.”
ADA systems are already available on more than 50% of 2023 model-year vehicles, according to Consumer Reports’ data. So, it’s likely that the next new car you buy will come with an ADA system as an option, if not as a standard feature.
In Consumer Reports’ recent testing of 12 ADA systems, Ford BlueCruise came out on top, followed by Cadillac Super Cruise and Mercedes-Benz Driver Assistance. However, Tesla, which was previously an innovator in ADA with its Autopilot system, fell from its second-place showing in 2020 to seventh this time around, placing in the middle of the pack. This is because Tesla hasn’t changed Autopilot’s basic functionality much since it first came out, instead just adding more features to it. According to Fisher, “After all this time, Autopilot still doesn’t allow collaborative steering and doesn’t have an effective driver monitoring system. While other automakers have evolved their ACC and LCA systems, Tesla has simply fallen behind.”