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Ford's hands-free BlueCruise comes under scrutiny after fatal crash

Ford's hands-free BlueCruise comes under scrutiny after fatal crash

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating an incident involving Ford's hands-free driver-assistance system after the driver of a Mustang Mach-E collided with another vehicle in Texas, killing its occupant. The second fatal crash involving the Mach-E occurred in Philadelphia, although it is not known whether driver-assistance systems played a role. Both accidents involved Mach-S colliding with stationary vehicles.

The first incident occurred on February 24 at 9:50 pm outside San Antonio, Texas. According to the NTSB's preliminary report, the 44-year-old driver of a Mustang Mach-E was traveling eastbound on Interstate 10 when he struck the rear of a stationary Honda CRV. The 56-year-old Honda driver died in the accident.

"Based on data obtained from the vehicle, the driver was operating the vehicle in BlueCruise mode prior to the accident," the NTSB says.

BlueCruise is Ford's hands-free driver-assistance system, in which the vehicle uses cameras and sensors to control steering, acceleration and braking on certain mapped highways.

But while drivers can take their hands off the steering wheel and their feet off the pedals, they still have to keep their eyes on the road and be ready to take control at a moment's notice. Ford said BlueCruise-equipped vehicles have already traveled more than 100 million miles.

The second incident occurred on March 3 in Philadelphia. According to the NTSB, the Ford vehicle collided with a Hyundai Elantra and a Toyota Prius, both of which were stationary in the travel lanes on I-95, and were struck from behind. According to the Associated Press, both drivers of the stationary cars were killed, and one may have been outside their vehicle.

Ford spokesperson Whitney said, "There is no higher priority than safety at Ford and we are cooperating fully with both the National Highway Transportation Safety Association (NHTSA) and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) as they investigate the February 24 incident. "Investigation is ongoing." " Pineda said in a statement on the Feb. 24 accident. "The timing of a full report has not been announced."

On the March 3 crash, Pineda said, "Ford was recently made aware of this incident through the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and has notified the National Highway Transportation Safety Association (NHTSA) as required. . We are investigating the events of March 3 and are cooperating fully with both agencies to understand the facts. “We express our sympathies to those involved.”

This is the first test of Ford's ADAS, which will be available from 2021. The NTSB, an independent investigative body under the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, has opened dozens of investigations into fatal crashes involving Tesla's Autopilot — but it's mostly the work of Tesla vehicles with more advanced driver assistance systems than Ford's. Are on the road.

But as more BlueCruise-equipped Ford vehicles hit the road, it's logical that there will be more accidents – and more investigations. Surveys show that many people have difficulty distinguishing between ADAS and fully automated driving systems, which can lead to overconfidence in the technology. And there is strong evidence that most driver-assistance systems are less safe than normal human driving. Drivers develop excessive dependence on these systems even after a short period of use. And when it comes time to take back control of the vehicle, their reaction time is slower than what is considered safe.

The federal government requires companies to report accidents involving advanced driver assistance, but there is currently no law prohibiting hands-free driving systems. Most companies place legal liability on the driver when it comes to accidents involving these systems, arguing that they still need to pay attention to the road when driver aids are engaged. But Tesla recently settled a lawsuit brought by the family of a man killed when his Autopilot-equipped vehicle crashed into a concrete divider.

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