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Driver assistance technology is getting a hard look from governing bodies in the U.S. this month. On the same day, the NHTSA shared it would investigate both Tesla and Ford on their hands-free driver assistance programs. While Tesla has been grappling with a 2023 investigation of Autopilot, Ford’s BlueCruise is in the hot seat now.

On April 25, 2024, the NHTSA announced it had been made aware of multiple deaths resulting from crashes involving two separate Ford vehicles. The Mustang Mach-E SUVs both had Ford BlueCruise engaged. BlueCruise is part of Ford’s hands-free driver assistance technology. According to Ford Media, “Ford BlueCruise enables hands-free highway driving that helps make long road trips or navigating stop-and-go traffic easier and more enjoyable.”

A man smiles widely while sitting in a Ford F-150 Lightning using BlueCruise hands-free driving tech man holding water bottle in right hand resting other hand on leg
Ford BlueCruise engaged on an F-150 Lightning | Ford

Ford’s marketing images of BlueCruise show drivers holding their hands up above the steering wheel. The Mustang Mach-E, F-150, and F-150 Lightning are featured. In one image, a driver holds a water bottle in one hand while his other hand rests on his leg. Nevertheless, all of the drivers look at the road as a key safety action.

The Office of Defects Investigation (ODI) will look into how effective the technology is in ensuring safety measures. Operator attention is of utmost concern. Without it, preventable crashes and deaths will continue.

On the same day, the ODI opened an investigation into Tesla’s 2023 Autopilot recall remedy. The NHTSA had determined that Tesla Autopilot was not doing enough to ensure drivers were paying attention, resulting in hundreds of preventable crashes and even deaths. After the initial investigation, Tesla released an optional and reversible over-the-air update that would disengage Autopilot if the driver failed to respond to attention prompts.