Your options for hands-free driving assistance in the US are about to increase, with Lincoln and Jeep both confirming that they have updates to their smart cruise control systems in the pipeline. Lincoln ActiveGlide and Jeep Hands Free Active Drive Assist won’t make your car an autonomous vehicle, but they could each ease some of the stress on the highway.
Both automakers currently offer adaptive cruise control with lane-keeping assistance on many if not all of their models. That system typically maintains pace with the vehicle in front – generally using a combination of forward-facing radar and cameras – with the driver able to adjust the distance in-between, plus holds the vehicle’s position in the center of the lane.
However, the driver still needs to be paying attention, and keep their hand in contact with the steering wheel. That way, the Jeep or Lincoln vehicle knows that they’re poised and ready to take over, should the situation demand it. What the two automakers have planned next, however, will be different.
As hands-off systems, drivers will be able to take their hands off the wheel: the cars will use driver-attention cameras to ensure that they’re still paying attention to the road, rather than distracted by their phone or napping. It’s a system we’ve seen offered by GM in the form of Super Cruise, and will soon launch on select Ford vehicles, as BlueCruise.
Like those systems, Lincoln ActiveGlide and Jeep Hands Free Active Drive Assist will only work on select roads. Specifically, it’ll be divided highways in North America, which have been previously mapped. Outside of that mapping, the system won’t enable.
As we found when testing Enhanced Super Cruise in the new Cadillac Escalade, the ability to take your hands off the wheel can be a transformative one. While far from being true autonomy – all of the systems are still considered some degree of Level 2, by the generally accepted standards, and not close to Level 4 or 5 where the vehicle would be self-sufficient in some or all circumstances – it’s definitely more relaxing to be able to rest your arms on long highway trips.
Lincoln’s system will, unsurprisingly, be its branded version of Ford BlueCruise. The automaker confirmed today that it will be available on the upcoming all-electric model it plans to reveal in 2022, though it’s unclear whether any other Lincoln models in the meantime will offer the system. Ford, notably, offered the BlueCruise hardware on the Mustang Mach-E and new F-150, even before the software was ready; that will be an OTA download later this year.
For Jeep, meanwhile, Hands Free Active Drive Assist will be offered first on the new 2021 Grand Cherokee L, the first three-row version of the new SUV. Unfortunately, the hands-free functionality won’t be coming until after the general launch, and Jeep won’t be borrowing Ford’s strategy of a post-sale update to add the feature in.
That means, while the Grand Cherokee L may be headed to dealerships imminently, if you want the most advanced driver-assistance that Jeep plans you may want to wait a while. An exact date for the feature’s introduction hasn’t been shared yet.
Still, it’s a notable time within the auto industry, as some of the table-stakes in ADAS get upgraded. What’s still some way down the line – regardless of what some may predict – is “true” autonomous driving, with neither the systems nor the road regulations quite ready for Level 4 or 5 deployment at scale yet.