Ford’s Hands-off BlueCruise Tech Was in Use Before Deadly Crash

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Key Takeaways

  • The NTSB has confirmed that Ford's BlueCruise system was in use during a fatal crash in Texas.
  • A Mustang Mach-E collided with a car on the highway, killing the other vehicle's occupant.
  • It's not clear if the technology was directly responsible.

Ford’s semi-autonomous BlueCruise system has been involved in a fatal car crash for the first time, according to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).

Investigators shared preliminary data revealing that the driver of a 2022 Mustang Mach-E was using the driver assistance feature when their EV collided with a stopped Honda CR-V on Interstate 10 in San Antonio, Texas on February 24th. The Honda SUV overturned, killing its driver, while the Ford driver survived the crash with minor injuries.

The CR-V’s hazard and tail lights weren’t illuminated, a witness said. The weather was clear, however, and there was roadway lighting present. The Ford driver showed no signs of intoxication.

The investigation is still ongoing, and a final report isn’t expected for another one to two years, according to the NTSB. The National Highway Traffic Safety Agency (NHTSA) is also investigating.

Ford said it wouldn’t comment on this latest crash. The automaker previously told TechCrunch that it was “actively researching” information surrounding another deadly Mach-E crash in Philadelphia, and had reported that incident to the NHTSA. That collision also involved stopped cars.

BlueCruise is a rough parallel to other semi-autonomous systems like Tesla’s Autopilot or GM’s Super Cruise. The technology is only usable on highways, but lets drivers go hands-free thanks to eye tracking. It only needs to know if users are paying attention to the road. Autopilot requires hands on the steering wheel at least some of the time.

The crashes are new territory for Ford. US officials have spent almost three years looking into a string of crashes where Tesla drivers using Autopilot collided with stopped emergency vehicles. Tesla also recently settled a lawsuit over a fatal Autopilot-involved crash from 2018. Ford, however, has largely had a clean record.

Regardless of brand performance, this latest Ford crash underscores the remaining safety concerns surrounding autonomous and semi-autonomous car tech. While the technology generally has a better accident ratio than human drivers, there are worries it’s causing collisions that humans would avoid. There are also fears that customers have unrealistic expectations and assume they don’t need to pay attention to the road.