I tested a self-driving car on the M25 and it’s a total game-changer

By 2026 the UK’s roads could be full of cars that are driving themselves without any human help. That’s the plan recently announced by transport secretary Mark Harper who hopes to have fully driverless technology introduced in Britain within the next few years. It’s a major change that might sound pretty terrifying but one car manufacturer is already offering hands-free driving along miles of the UK’s motorways.

Ford’s electric Mustang Mach-E was given the green light earlier this year to allow UK owners to travel without touching the steering wheel. It’s technology Ford calls BlueCruise and over the festive period, Express.co.uk was offered the chance to put it to the test on roads including the bustling M25. The system is remarkably easy to use with a blue alert popping up on the digital dash when the car enters so-called “BlueZones”.

There are currently over 2,000 miles of these BlueZones across the UK and once the Mach-E confirms you are travelling in one of them a simple tap of a button lets this EV take over the driving.

Steering, acceleration and braking are all controlled autonomously with the Mach-E even keeping a constant safe distance from the car in front.

The technology means you can travel miles without touching a thing, including the pedals, and that’s game-changing news for anyone who hates spending hours thundering along the motorway.

To make all this happen, BlueCruise uses a combination of radars and cameras to detect and track the position and speed of other vehicles on the road. A forward-facing camera also detects lane markings and speed signs.

Now, before you start thinking that you can have a nap or watch something on your phone – you definitely can’t. Drivers have to stay fully alert and reaching for a smartphone will still land you with a massive fine even when the car is driving itself. Ford has also implemented hands-off, eyes-on driving in the Mach-E which means your face is constantly scanned to make sure you are looking at the road ahead.

Start glaring at the giant iPad-style touch screen or look longingly at your passengers and an alert pops up to remind you to stay focused – ignore that and the self-driving system deactivates.

During our time with the Mach-E we never felt unsafe using BlueCruise as the car reacts incredibly fast to changes in speed and traffic. Ford also says it has spent endless hours making sure it’s robust enough to keep passengers protected. It’s actually been available in the US for a number of years with millions of miles already driven using the system.

Of course, switching to self-driving cars isn’t cheap. The Mach-E currently starts from around £44,000 and there’s then a £17.99 monthly fee on top to activate the BlueCruise system.

That said, this is clearly the future of long-distance motoring and we can’t wait to see it arriving in more vehicles soon.

Where are Ford’s Blue Zones in the UK?

Over 95 percent of the UK’s motorways are designated Ford Blue Zones, where Ford BlueCruise can be activated upon entering. These include the M25, M3, M40, M6, M5, M74 and M1.

How much does it cost?

Ford is offering a 90-day free trial of BlueCruise but once that ends you then have to pay £17.99 to keep the system active on the car.

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