Ford’s Hands-Free System Probed After Deadly Mustang Crashes

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has launched an investigation into Ford’s BlueCruise hands-free driving technology after it was found to have been engaged during a pair of deadly crashes.

Both of the fatal incidents involved electric Mustang Mach-E SUVs smashing into stationary vehicles, the NHTSA said in documents Monday. Both occurred in nighttime lighting conditions, the agency said, and “each incident resulted in at least one fatality.”

BlueCruise is partially automated driver assistance software that can only be used on specific roadways. It uses cameras to make sure that drivers are still paying attention to the road when the system is in use.

Ford says it is working with the agency to support the probe, according to the Associated Press. The auto giant says on its website that its driving systems are not designed to replace human drivers, who are still required to be able to take control of the vehicle at all times.

The first crash involved in the NHTSA probe occurred on Feb. 24 in San Antonio, Texas. The National Transportation Safety Board, which was already investigating the incident, said the Ford Mach-E hit a Honda CR-V that was stopped in the middle of three lanes on Interstate 10 at around 9:50 p.m. The Ford driver suffered minor injuries but the Honda driver was killed, the NTSB said in a preliminary report.

A witness who managed to avoid the Honda said its tail and hazard lights were not illuminated at the time of the crash, which she saw unfolding in her rearview mirror.

The second incident that the NHTSA is looking at took place at around 3:20 a.m. on March 3 on Interstate 95 in Philadelphia. Pennsylvania State Police said the Mach-E was headed north in the left lane when it hit a stationary Hyundai Elantra that had earlier crashed into a Toyota Prius.

The Hyundai was pushed into the back of the Prius in the collision. The Prius driver and a person from the Hyundai were outside their vehicles at the time of the crash and both were hit, police said. The victims, a 21-year-old man and a 20-year-old man, were pronounced dead at the scene.

A police news release on the incident says a criminal investigation is underway and that the 23-year-old woman driving the Mach-E may face a charge of homicide while driving under the influence.

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