Fully automated self-driving cars are still a thing of the future. But consumers in 2023 can get a taste of what is commonly described as “hands-free driving capability,” which is vehicle equipped to automatically accelerate, brake and steer for the driver without the driver needing to keep hands on the steering wheel.
Only a few automakers currently offer hands-free driving, and each gives its own system a different name. There are plenty of limitations on what each system can do. Most will only work on certain highways, and other criteria must be met before the system can operate hands-free. The driver still needs to pay attention to the road at all times and be ready to take over when the system requests it or when an emergency maneuvre is needed.
As the spring selling season tries to get off the ground, here are which automakers auto insight firm Edmunds sees as “the most significant hands-free driving systems available this year.”
BlueCruise is the name of Ford and Lincoln's hands-free driving system. It provides hands-free driving capability on more than 130,000 miles — or 20,000 kilometres — of designated major highways in the United States and Canada. Updated versions of BlueCruise also have the capability to automatically change lanes and adjust speed for sharp curves in the road. It's available as an option on certain trim levels of select Ford and Lincoln models.
GM's hands-free driving system is called Super Cruise. It's available on certain trim levels in various Chevrolet, GMC and Cadillac models in both Canada and the United States. As with most hands-free systems, drivers can only take their hands off the wheel on certain pre-mapped roads, and GM says Super Cruise works on up to 400,000 miles — or 64,000 kilometres — of roadways.
Things are more complex with Tesla. The company offers the Full Self-Driving system on newer models with the appropriate hardware. Despite its name, Full Self-Driving isn't yet a self-driving system, though Tesla says it will be at one point in the future. For the current Full Self-Driving system to have hands-free capability, owners must opt-in to the Beta version. Tesla offers Full-Self Driving Beta to anyone who has the regular Full Self-Driving system. Notably, Full-Self Driving Beta can operate hands-free on most regular roads or highways.
Nissan's ProPilot Assist, when activated under the right conditions, the system can automatically accelerate, brake and steer for the driver. “As part of ProPilot Assist, this system monitors the flow of traffic, maintaining an adjustable pre-set distance from the car ahead. It can even stop your Nissan automatically when the highway slows to a standstill, picking up the pace once the way is clear,” Nissan Canada’s says on its website.