Ford on Monday announced it will make the hardware required for its BlueCruise automated highway driver-assist system a standard feature on new vehicles, starting with certain 2024 models.
Customers will then be able to access the feature on demand via a subscription. There will be complementary trial periods, after which customers will need to sign up to monthly or annual subscriptions.
BlueCruise subscriptions will be priced from $75 for the monthly plan or $800 for the annual plan. Three years of BlueCruise access will also be available for $2,100 when ordering the vehicle.
There is no minimum length for the subscriptions, meaning a customer could activate the service for one month for a road trip and not activate it again for another year.
The move provides more flexibility for customers as currently they need to decide whether they want to add BlueCruise hardware when ordering the vehicle. The hardware can't be retrofitted after the vehicle has left the factory.
Ford expects to install BlueCruise hardware on 500,000 2024 models in North America, from both the Ford and Lincoln brands. The Lincoln version of BlueCruise was previously branded ActiveGlide.
BlueCruise is ranked at Level 2 on the SAE scale of self-driving capability, as it requires the driver to monitor the roads at all times. Popular systems like General Motors' Super Cruise and Tesla's Autopilot with Full Self Driving also rank at Level 2. Level 3 is the first level where the driver can take their eyes off the road. Mercedes-Benz currently offers a Level 3 system known as Drive Pilot, though only in select regions of the world.
BlueCruise is currently on version 1.2. It can handle lane changes after being instructed by the driver. It can also suggest making a lane change when following slow-moving traffic. Ford on Monday said version 1.3 is coming out soon. It will still be designed for highways only but will have improved performance when navigating curves or narrow lanes.