During a recent capital markets event, Ford’s executive team provided some updates on the company’s work in autonomous driving. As per the automaker, BlueCruise is set to be available in about 500,000 vehicles by 2024. Plans are also underway to introduce a Level 3 system for Ford’s next-generation electric vehicles.
BlueCruise, which is already being rolled out today, can perform functions such as acceleration, braking, lane centering, and automatic lane changing. Ford advertises BlueCruise as a hands-free system, though the feature can only be engaged in select areas. Similar to Tesla’s Autopilot and Full Self-Driving, BlueCruise requires drivers to remain alert and ready to take over at any time.
Ford noted that BlueCruise-equipped vehicles have already completed over 50 million miles on the road. This is quite impressive, though the company is already hard at work on its next-generation driver-assist system, a Level 3 suite. Level 3 systems are highly automated, with drivers being able to take their eyes off the road in certain situations.
Ford noted last year when it divested from its Argo AI robotaxi unit that Level 3 autonomy would ultimately prove profitable and less complex, as stated in a report from The Verge. During the capital markets event, however, Doug Field, the company’s vice president in charge of electrification and software, admitted that Ford would not be able to deliver a Level 3 system by the middle of the decade.
“As much as I want it to, we’re not going to deliver L3 by 2025. It’s just too ambitious and undertaking, so we have to lay the groundwork. But you’re going to have to wait a little longer for L3,” Field said.
Field outlined the key use cases for Ford’s upcoming Level 3 suite, noting that the system would be useful for stop-and-go traffic and long journeys where drivers could divert their attention from the road. Field also acknowledged that a Level 3 system might face challenges when it comes to urban environments with complex scenarios involving stop signs, pedestrians, and other tricky areas.
“Downtown operations with pedestrians and stop signs and double- and triple-parked cars. That is the hardest possible place to get L3 up and going,” Field said.
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