Until a long-promised future replete with driverless cars arrives, we’re stuck behind the wheels of our own vehicles. Autonomous driving is slowly getting more… autonomous in places, but for passenger cars that still feature steering wheels, we still need to keep our hands on the wheel and eyes on the road—if you’re not driving a GM with SuperCruise or a Ford with BlueCruise, that is.
Currently available only in certain trims of Ford’s first two battery-electric vehicles, the Mustang Mach-E and F-150 Lightning, BlueCruise enables hands-free driving on over 130,000 miles of divided highways around the US. It’s essentially Ford’s Co-Pilot 360 driver-assistance system paired with a set of cameras inside the car that monitor the driver’s eyes to make sure they’re looking at the road.
I recently got to spend a week each with the Ford Mustang Mach-E GT and F-150 Lightning Platinum, both of which are equipped with BlueCruise. Those two weeks also coincided with a positive COVID test for my son, a freshman at the University of Iowa. As that university’s COVID policy for positive tests boils down to “you don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here,” and I had my own (mild) bout about a month prior (and was double-boosted), I was dispatched to retrieve the boy so he could isolate at home.
The biggest chunk of the ~215-mile route between suburban Chicago and Iowa City is Interstate 88, which is arguably one of the least interesting stretches of the Interstate Highway System. Along with I-294 and I-80, it has been mapped by Ford and is covered by BlueCruise. The prospect of over 850 miles of boring, back-and-forth driving suddenly seemed less onerous.
The frustrations of a masked driver
Twenty-four hours after first showing symptoms, our son texted us a picture of his positive COVID test. At that point, the $69,600 Mustang Mach-E GT Performance Edition was sitting in the garage with about 190 miles of range. Having made the drive to Iowa City in our own BEV, I knew there was a Level 3 charger 40 or so miles short of our destination at Iowa 80, aka the “World’s Largest Truckstop,” outside of Walcott, Iowa. Having owned a BEV for close to three years, I also knew better than to chance the trip without so small a range buffer, so I went out to the garage and plugged our Electrify America home charger into the Mach-E.
As the name suggests, the GT is a souped-up version of the Mustang Mach-E. Sporting all-wheel drive, the GT can shoot from 0 to 60 in just 3.8 seconds. If that’s not enough, the $5,000 Performance Edition drops that figure down to just 3.5 seconds. Its two electric motors churn out 480 hp (358 kW) with 634 lb-ft (860 Nm) of torque. The GT comes with Ford’s 88 kWh Extended Range battery, which gives the Performance Edition GT a 260-mile range, a 10-mile decrease from the vanilla GT.
When I checked the Electrify America app about three hours later, the Mach-E was north of 240 miles of range, so it was time to go. Once I got onto the Tri-State Tollway, I cued up the audiobook of Neal Stephenson’s Anathem and turned on BlueCruise. After a couple of seconds, a blue steering wheel icon showed up on the digital instrument cluster with the words “Hands-Free” superimposed on it. I dropped my hands to my side, and the car kept doing what cars do.