The promise of driverless cars has captured public attention, with the US Department of Transportation issuing guidelines for automated driving on Tuesday, and major automakers like Ford saying they'll unveil a completely autonomous, level-4 car by 2021.
So it's easy to forget this fact: There is already a lot of semi-autonomous technology on the road today. Tesla's Autopilot is, perhaps, the best known of the advanced driving technology currently on the road. But Ford's Fusion has featured adaptive cruise control—level 1 autonomy—since 2013.
So what does that look like? At Ford's Development Center in Dearborn, MI, Todd Soderquist, chief engineer for Ford Fusion Energi, explains how the technology worked in the 2017 Fusion Energi—one of 20 driver-assist features available on the latest model.
And TechRepublic's Hope Reese climbed into the driver's seat of the car to test out the technology herself. Here's the video of the ride:
As you can see, the adaptive cruise control means that the car can see what's happening in front of it—and can adjust speed accordingly. If the car ahead brakes, the Fusion Energi will also come to a stop. If it's a short stop, the car will start right back up again. If it's longer than three seconds, a simple touch of a button will instruct the car to restart, resuming its previous speed.
While Ford's Fusion Energi obviously requires hands on the wheel, as does all semi-autonomous technology available today, the adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go means the car can take over in often-stressful heavy traffic situations, allowing the driver to relax a bit. Ford isn't the only automaker to have adaptive cruise control—Volvo, Toyota, BMW, Mercedes and others also offer models with this kind of tech.
- Autonomous driving levels 0 to 5: Understanding the differences (TechRepublic)
- Ford CEO promises autonomous vehicles for mass transit by 2021 (ZDNet)
- Ford executive chairman on Ford GT and autonomous cars (CBS News)
- Ford: Self-driving cars are five years away from changing the world (ZDNet)
- How Ford's autonomous cars can see in the dark, even without headlights (TechRepublic)
- Ford taps IBM for data analytics to win the connected car race (TechRepublic)
- Photos: A list of the world's self-driving cars racing toward 2020 (TechRepublic)
Hope Reese has nothing to disclose. She doesn't hold investments in the technology companies she covers.
Hope Reese is a journalist in Louisville, KY. Her writing has been featured in The Atlantic, The Boston Globe, The Chicago Tribune, Playboy, Undark Magazine, VICE, Vox, and other publications.