Called Active Drive Assist, the technology uses a camera and radar sensors to drive the vehicles without driver intervention on more than 100,000 miles of mapped divided highways in North America. Instead of the 15 or 45 seconds of hands-free driving before the system requires the driver to check in on most competitors' systems, Active Drive Assist lets the driver relax for much longer stretches of time on highways. Using adaptive cruise control, active lane control, and traffic-sign recognition, the system can drive itself for hours, as long as there's no obstruction like construction.
Like Cadillac's Super Cruise, it uses a driver-facing camera to ensure that the driver is keeping their eyes on the road. If the driver has their head down or eyes averted from the road, say by looking down at their phone, a series of escalating alerts will sound, requiring the driver to at least pick up their head, then take control of the wheel. Tesla's Autopilot system lacks the self-monitoring feature used by Ford and Cadillac. General Motors is rolling out Super Cruise to more products, including the 2022 Chevy Bolt, 2021 Cadillac Escalade, and 2021 Cadillac CT4 and CT5 sedans.
The self-monitoring feature is the main reason why Consumer Reports recently rated Super Cruise as the best advanced driver assistance system of 17 automakers. Active Drive Assist was not available to be tested.
Ford Mustang Mach-E Active Drive Assist
Ford's system requires other packages, and the hardware purchase can happen now at dealerships but the software to activate the cutting-edge technology will be available in the third quarter of 2021 as an over-the-air update. Customers don't have to buy the hardware and software at once. For example, 2021 F-150 shoppers can buy the hardware now through the Co-Pilot 360 Active 2.0 Prep Package for $995 (early adopters get a $100 discount). Then, when the software is ready in the late middle of 2021, they can activate it for $600 via an over-the-air update. Or they could just buy the hardware and software at the dealer for $1,595.
The Active 2.0 Prep Package also includes Ford's parking helpers that can automatically parallel and perpendicular park.
Of course, Active Drive Assist is not available on all trims. It's standard on the top 2021 F-150 Limited, and available on Lariat, King Ranch, and Platinum.
For the 2021 Mustang Mach-E electric crossover, it comes standard on Premium, First Edition, and CA Route 1 trims. On the base Select trim, it costs $3,200 as part of the Comfort and Technology package, but that also includes a surround-view camera, heated front seats, and a heated steering wheel.
The cost confusion doesn't end there. The software has a three-year subscription period, same as Super Cruise. Super Cruise comes as part of a $2,500 package but has more than 200,000 miles of divided highways where it can be used, with monthly subscriptions priced from $15. Ford didn't say how much the next software update would cost, or if it would charge monthly or in annual blocks. The price of Tesla's Autopilot has increased incrementally as more features are added, costing either $4,000 now for both hardware and software or $8,000 for a misnamed "Full Self-Driving" package. There are rumors Tesla will add a subscription model as well.
The 2021 F-150 and 2021 Mustang Mach-E go on sale late this year.