Hands-free driving of an autonomous car using gaze, something that has been a reality in the US and UK for months, will also be a reality on Spanish roads later this year thanks to the technology that Ford hopes Spain will approve, which will make it one of the first countries in Europe to offer it.
The carmaker assures that approval in Spain of BlueCruise technology, which drives the vehicle autonomously while the driver keeps their eyes on the road, is “imminent” after Germany this week will become the first country in the European Union to achieve it .
In fact, both the Ministry of Industry, Energy and Tourism (MINCOTUR) and the Directorate-General for Transport (DGT) have already been able to do so, as Fernando Acebrón, responsible for government affairs at Ford in Spain, explained to EFE, observing a demonstration.
“This approval is expected to arrive relatively soon. (…), it will certainly be before the end of the year”, because from Ford Spain “we have been working on it all summer, with intense, fluid and collaborative relations with the authorities”, explains Acebrón.
If these plans are implemented, Spain will be ahead of the other countries of the Old Continent and would be the second country in the European Union to have this technology.
DRIVE A FORD WITH YOUR LOOK
As the agency EFE was able to prove in a one-hour test on the streets of Cologne on board a Ford Mustang Mach-E, the vehicle monitors the direction of view via an infrared camera built into the steering wheel and, after this action, allows you to raise your hands and the car drives autonomously.
Level 2 autonomous driving allows you to temporarily remove your hands and eyes from the vehicle and utilize a driving assistant that can control the lateral and longitudinal movement required to change lanes or pass another vehicle.
“In any case, the driver is still in control, he cannot do other things and must always be alert,” explains Pradeep Nold, who is responsible for the development of this technology at EFE.
The aim is for the driver to have “a certain level of comfort”, since he does not have to keep his hands on the steering wheel on longer journeys and can adopt a relaxed posture on longer journeys.
“The car can brake, accelerate and stay on track”
“The car can brake, accelerate and stay in lane,” explains the Spanish engineer Arantza Domínguez, who is involved in the development and implementation of this technology, thanks to tools such as adaptive cruise control or central lane keeping and repositioning in it.
BlueCruise is approved for use in the so-called ‘blue zones’, which are roads mapped by Ford which, in the case of Germany, make up 95% of the country’s autobahns. In the UK, it has been available for use on “M” roads since April last year.
According to Domínguez, the software is “fully developed” for use on highways in all of the brand’s vehicles that have the sensors necessary for their operation, and they intend to use this technology on national roads in the future.
“The reason we don’t offer it on other roads is that driving the car autonomously around a very tight corner isn’t currently possible. “The driver would have to help turn the steering wheel,” Domínguez explains the current limits of the technology.
In addition to Germany, this technology has also been tested in China and the USA, where it has a customer base that has traveled 270 million kilometers to help develop the system.
A notice on the front panel and autonomous driving begins
This vehicle will drive like other electric automatic or Ford vehicles until BlueCruise technology is activated.
The system is activated via a button integrated into the steering wheel, which can be used to regulate the fixed speed at which the vehicle is to travel. You can also let the system calculate the speed itself based on the traffic signs it recognizes.
As long as the driver keeps their eyes on the road and is in one of the so-called “blue zones”, they can watch the dashboard illuminate in blue and they can take both hands off the steering wheel and their feet off the pedals. .
Then the driver only has to look at the road and if he takes his eyes off an audible alarm sounds after six seconds, later it warns again with two consecutive light braking applications and finally starts reducing speed until the driver takes control recovered.
BlueCruise technology is limited to reading the GPS tracked route of a single lane. In order to pass another vehicle, the driver must therefore regain control and change lanes. The same applies if you want to make a detour.
The Spanish roads are ready for the disembarkation of Ford’s Bluecruise
According to Acebrón, Spanish motorways and their legislation are ready to integrate this new technology and with Germany now close to homologation, the rest of the EU countries can apply for it. After verification, the permit is legally approved.
Ford is currently developing the mapping of Spain to be able to integrate the country’s roads with Bluecruise GPS systems, although the company assures that “there is still work to be done” and that there will be areas where it will not be used due to curves can be. with a steeper angle.