Ford offers hands-free driving with Blue Cruise Lightning EV

By Paul Borden

(November 5, 2022) For quite some time now I have taken a both-hands-on-the-wheel approach when it comes to driving. I have more confidence when my hands are in the 3 o’clock-9-o’clock positions in most conditions, taking advantage of convenient nodules some models have on steering wheels to help me place my thumbs on the wheel.

It used to be the 2-10 position was recommended, but the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration made the change because the 2-10 position can be dangerous in vehicles with smaller steering wheels and equipped with air bags. NHTSA actually recommends positions between 7 and 8 o’clock for your left hand and 4 and 5 for your right, but I like to move them up a little on the wheel.

With this in mind, I have been reluctant to see what “hands-free” driving is all about, though it is a feature often highlighted in car and truck ads you see on TV these days. The only time I ever thought about taking my hands off the wheel was if I was in a race car headed for an unavoidable crash into a race track wall, which is a situation I never will be in.

But I decided I should check out the hands-free mode on the Ford F-150 Lightning I was cruising in on Florida’s Turnpike recently. The turnpike is one of the divided highways that Ford’s “Blue Cruise” marks for operation. Interstate highways are other common hands-free zones across the U.S.
My reaction?

It’s a bit nerve-wracking at 70 mph.  No, allow me to amend that. A lot nerve-wracking. Of course, unlike in TV commercials I have seen promoting the hands-free experience I did not clap my hands in rhythmic cadence but kept them lightly on the steering wheel.

That is recommended anyway for safety purposes and it became immediately clear why when I was confronted by several traffic barrels indicating a lane closure. I simply re-affirmed my grip on the steering wheel and smoothly guided the Ford F-150 Lightning into the adjacent lane.

Then I turned off the system and took over responsibility myself. Hands-free driving may seem cool, but I’m not ready for it yet.

I covered the basics for the Ford F-150 Lightning in an earlier review, but in simple terms it is an all-electric version of Ford’s best-selling full-sized F-Series pickup. Ford was not the first to come out with an EV pickup but it had the advantage of already having the best-selling model on the market when it did.
The Ford F-150 Lightning was popular at its introduction but, with the news that Tesla was going to bring its Cybertruck EV to market later this year, sales took a sharp drop. Ford confirmed a Wall Street Journal report that it was cutting a production shift of 700 workers for the F-150 Lightning at its Dearborn plant.

The 2023 Ford F-150 Lightning isn’t all that much different from the debut 2022 model though driving range with the standard battery getting a slight bump up to 240 miles.
New Platinum Black and Flash editions are being added for 2024. This brief update, however, is based on the original Lightning. Flash models get the extended range battery pack (320 miles) that boosts horsepower and torque to 580 hp and 775 pound-feet, respectively, resulting in a zero-to-60 mph clocking of 3.2 seconds.

The Lightning is sold only with a Crew Cab with a 5.5-foot bed that has a handy retractable step-up for easy access.

MSRP for the new 2024 Ford F-150 Lightning Platinum Black trim approaches six figures but only 2,000 are scheduled for production, according to reports. The Flash model starts at just under $70,000. Base Pro models start at just over $50,000.
What I liked about the Ford F-150 Lightning: Running boards are standard on a the Platinum trim to ease access to the spacious, comfortable cabin. Throttle response is immediate, making the Lightning ever quicker that the F-150 Raptor R. Trunk space in the front is handy for smaller cargo loads.

What I didn’t like about the Ford F-150 Lightning: There’s a fairly steep learning curve with the numerous tech features. It can be distracting to work your way through the various modes to get to the function you need. I did not experience this personally, but range is considerably reduced when towing.

Would I buy the Ford F-150 Lightning? All you want from a Ford F-150 comes in an all-electric drivetrain that does have the usual drawbacks when it comes to charging times and towing. Anyone having to do long-distance towing on a regular basis are advised to go with the usual gas-powered pickup.