DETROIT—Ford Motor Co. officials believe an upcoming hands-free driver assist system is more intuitive and driver-friendly than established options from rivals General Motors Co. and Tesla Inc.
The feature, called Active Drive Assist, will launch in the third quarter of 2021. The hardware to enable the system first will be available as an optional package on certain 2021 vehicles, including the Mustang Mach-E, which debuts later this year. Officials did not specify what other vehicles would get the system, which is part of a host of updates to its CoPilot360 driver assist feature suite.
The system uses infrared cameras, including a driver-facing camera in the steering wheel, to monitor an operator's alertness. So long as they're paying attention, a driver can engage the system and drive hands-free on more than 100,000 miles of divided highways in all 50 states and Canada.
Active Drive Assist is Ford's answer to Cadillac's Super Cruise and Tesla's Autopilot. Officials say they took special care to develop a series of graphics and indicators to let drivers know when the system is engaged and when it's not.
"We noted from reviewing systems on sale it can be a little confusing for customers," Darren Palmer, Ford's global director for battery electric vehicles, said on a conference call. "The team used a human centered design approach to do this. We tried graphics, colors and information to see which would be understood by most people without education."