I took my first long-ish trip in the Lightning this weekend along I-66 and I-81. There are some hills and some gentle curves, but overall particularly challenging. I've taken my Model S on this route 4 or 5 times. I-81 is especially truck heavy and the lanes are well marked and maintained in most places and not narrow. I used BlueCruise as much as I could and noticed a few things, some good, some not so much:
- Disengagement is "soft" in the sense that you can easily take over at any time without causing the truck to snap out of autosteer and suddenly veer away from its intended path. Those who have driven a Tesla and have had to take over know what I mean. It's really one of the worst parts about the Tesla's autopilot so I'm glad Ford hasn't followed in their footsteps here.
- Lane changes are manual. This is another shortcoming of the original Tesla system that the Lightning doesn't have. Though I have to initiate the lane changes myself, I can do them at my own speed. Autopilot will change lanes for you when you put your signal on, but Unless you give the Tesla system a lot of headway and there is very little traffic, it will take forever to make a change and in some cases never make the change. In the Lightning you just signal, make your change yourself, turn the signal off, then let the system resume (often quickly, but not always).
- It doesn't freak out much at traffic cutting you off. Sometimes AP will overreact to a car merging in front of you and brake to quickly put some following distance between you and the car in front. The Lightning will still slow down to make space, but it feels more natural.
- No sounds. Like others, I initially wished for more audible cues when when BC would engage/disengage, but now I have become more accustomed to the instrument cluster icons and graphic changes that I can generally see the status in my peripheral vision. Given the frequency that BC comes and goes, I think the sounds would be so annoying that you'd just get rid of the system altogether. That said, I think Ford will still probably bring in sounds for safety's sake when they update the system.
- Hands free really does watch your eyes, and it works well even with sunglasses and at night. You only have a few seconds to look away from the road before it warns you. It even picks up at your distraction if you're staring at the instrument cluster behind the wheel. I am not a fan of nags, but I also didn't notice any false positives or negatives. The nag screen comes on in a reasonable amount of time and it goes away just as quickly once your eyes are back on the road.
- No phantom braking. This isn't a problem on my original AP1 Model S, but I hear it's a problem for newer cars without radar so I figure I'd throw that fact out there.
- The truck ping pongs between the lane markers a lot, even on easy stretches of road. This is unnerving at best and dangerous at worst. In some cases it would drift over the lane markers into the adjacent lane without advising you to take over. Of course you should always be monitoring for errant behavior or things the system can't pick up, but this requires you to micromanage the system with steering inputs or just accept that you're eventually going to get pulled over for letting the truck drive drunk.. This babysitting can be more stressful than just driving the truck yourself and turning off lane assist.
- If you're in the right lane, it doesn't like when you have a lane merging in from the right, eliminating the right lane markers. Sometimes it will make it through this transition without prompting you to put your hands on the wheel, sometimes it doesn't. It generally does an okay job of tracking on the left lane markers and not attempting to split the difference between the left lane markers and the shoulder marker though.
- Following distance can be too far, especially at low speeds. I get that you're supposed to always maintain a safe following distance, but even on the closest setting, the truck leaves such a huge gap in front of you that traffic will often try to go around you and cut you off. I know this experience will be even worse when commuting in DC traffic.