ITV News takes UK's first hands-free self-driving car out for a test drive

ITV News' Ian Woods took the UK's first hands-free self-driving car out for a test drive

Electric cars that drive themselves - it is a giant leap from those that Henry Ford first sold.

But today, Ford's new advanced driver assistance system has gained approval for use on the UK’s motorways - meaning motorists are legally able to drive with their hands off the wheel.

The manufacturer's Mustang Mach-e is the first car to be fully approved in the UK for hands-free driving.

In a first of its kind for a system of this type in Europe, the BlueCruise system allows for ‘hands-off, eyes-on’ driving technology on 2,300 miles of pre-mapped motorways in England, Scotland and Wales. These pre-designated ‘Blue Zones’ will allow the driver to travel in hands-free mode, providing that they pay attention to the road ahead. It can be operated at speeds of up to 80mph, too.

The car features a dashboard camera that always watches the driver - to check you haven't nodded off.

These infra-red driver-facing cameras check the driver’s eye gaze and head pose, even if they’re wearing sunglasses. If it detects that the driver isn’t being attentive to the road ahead, it will display a warning message in the instrument cluster. This will be followed by audible alerts and will finally apply the brake and slow the vehicle if the driver fails to look at the road.

This will also occur if the driver fails to place their hands back on the wheel when they return to an area outside of a Blue Zone. Martin Sander, general manager of Ford’s electric division in Europe, said: “It’s not every day that you can say you’ve placed one foot in the future, but Ford BlueCruise becoming the first hands-free driving system of its kind to receive approval for use in a European country is a significant step forward for our industry.”

But advanced technology doesn't come cheap. On top of the £50,000 for the car, motorists will have to pay a monthly subscription for the hands-free option.

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