Feds Probe Ford BlueCruise Following Fatal Crash

By automotive-mag.com 4 Min Read

The National Transportation Safety Board has launched an investigation into a fatal crash involving a Ford Mustang Mach-E equipped with Ford’s Level 2 driver assistance system, BlueCruise.

The crash took place on I-10 near San Antonio, Texas late last month. According to reports, the Mustang Mach-E collided with a Honda CR-V stopped in the center lane of an interstate at around 10 PM. The stationary CR-V reportedly had no lights on, which may have resulted in the Mach-E’s cameras being unable to pick up the object and engage Automatic Emergency Braking.

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At the center of the investigation is Ford’s Level 2 driver assistance system: BlueCruise. Ford markets the $75-per-month tech as a “hands-free highway driving feature” when driving on prequalified sections of divided highways. Ford says it has mapped out more than 130,000 miles of roads in North America to be compatible with its hands-free feature, which includes a large section of highway I-10 outside of San Antonio.

However, given that the system is defined as a Level 2 driver-assistance feature, the person behind the steering wheel is considered to be responsible for the car’s operation at all times.

 

It’s not clear whether Ford BlueCruise was engaged at the time of the crash, however, the NTSB mandates that fatal accidents involving Level 2 driver-assistance systems engaged 30 seconds prior to a collision are reported to the agency. InsideEVs has reached out to the San Antonio Police Department for clarification but has not received further information at the time of writing.

Ford has, however, made BlueCruise hardware standard on most compatible Ford vehicles starting late last year. Reports indicate that the Mach-E involved in the crash was equipped with BlueCruise, likely prompting the investigation to determine if the feature was engaged and what exactly may have happened in the moments leading up to the crash.

At this point, the probe is preliminary and meant to gather more information about the crash. NTSB issued the following statement on the purpose of its investigation:

NTSB is investigating this fatal crash due to its continued interest in advanced driver assistance systems and how vehicle operators interact with these technologies. A team of investigators from the NTSB’s Special Investigations Branch of the Office of Highway Safety will travel to San Antonio to examine the wreckage and collect information about the accident site and sequence of events leading to the collision.

If BlueCruise was enabled, the inability to detect the stationary vehicle late at night isn’t exactly surprising. Most driver assistance systems, including adaptive cruise control systems with AEB, ignore stationary objects. This is because most systems are tuned to utilize long-range radar to gauge the distance of moving objects, not stationary ones.

If the car’s vision-based camera system is unable to detect the vehicle and its radar system is tuned to ignore stationary objects, a non-moving vehicle parked late at night without lights on may have been undetectable until the collision.

A preliminary report outlining the NTSB’s findings is expected to be issued in about a month.

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