US opens probe into 130,000 Ford vehicles over hands-free tech

WASHINGTON, (Reuters) – The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is opening an investigation into Ford Motor’s hands-free driving technology BlueCruise after two fatal crashes involving Mustang Mach-E SUVs striking parked vehicles, the agency said on Monday.

The agency’s preliminary evaluation, into 130,000 2021-2024 Ford Mustang Mach-E vehicles is the first step to determine whether the vehicles pose an unreasonable risk to safety.

Ford said it is working with the NHTSA to support its investigation.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has opened separate investigations into the two Mach-E crashes, including a Feb. 24 crash of a Ford Mustang Mach-E using BlueCruise which struck the rear of a stationary Honda CR-V on Interstate Highway 10 in San Antonio, Texas, killing the 56-year-old Honda driver.

The NTSB is also investigating a March 3 crash in Philadelphia involving a Ford Mach-E, the other crash cited by the NHTSA.

The auto safety regulator said Monday its initial investigation confirmed that BlueCruise was engaged immediately prior to the collision in the Philadelphia crash.

NHTSA previously opened special crash investigations into both fatal incidents. Both occurred during “nighttime lighting conditions,” the agency said.

Ford offers BlueCruise, an advanced hands-free driving system that operates on 97% of U.S. and Canadian highways with no intersections or traffic signals. The system uses a camera-based driver monitoring system to determine driver attentiveness.

The NHTSA investigation includes Mach-E vehicles with Co-Pilot360 Active 2.0 that have a number of driver assistance technologies including BlueCruise, which was introduced in 2021 and is currently available in a range of Ford and Lincoln vehicles.

The investigation will evaluate the system’s performance on the dynamic driving task and driver monitoring, NHTSA said.

Last week, the NHTSA opened a probe into whether a Tesla recall of more than 2 million vehicles announced in December to install new Autopilot software updates was adequate to ensure drivers are paying attention. The updates follow a series of crashes.

NHTSA opened the investigation after receiving reports of 20 crashes involving vehicles that had the new Autopilot software updates. It said at least 13 fatalities had occurred in which “foreseeable driver misuse of the system played an apparent role.”

Reporting by David Shepardson in Washington Shivansh Tiwary and Harshita Meenaktshi in Bengaluru; editing by Shounak Dasgupta and Jason Neely