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Why Did General Motors Sue Ford Over Its "BlueCruise" Hands-Free Driving System?

By John Rosevear – Aug 13, 2021 at 2:45PM

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Is it really about the trademark?

Ford Motor Company (F 0.36%) recently launched its own hands-free highway driving system. Called "BlueCruise," the system is similar to Tesla's (TSLA -0.19%) Autopilot and General Motors' (GM 0.87%) Super Cruise systems, both of which have been popular with customers. 

But GM wasn't happy to see Ford enter the hands-free fray. GM sued Ford last month, arguing that the BlueCruise name is too close to Super Cruise -- and maybe too close to the name of GM's self-driving subsidiary, Cruise Automation.

But is that really what this suit is about? In this Motley Fool Live video, recorded on Aug. 5, Industry Focus host Nick Sciple and Motley Fool senior auto specialist John Rosevear offer their take on what GM's true motivations might be -- and on the likelihood that this hands-free technology will become ubiquitous over the next several years. 

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Nick Sciple: Okay, John. We've got just two minutes left before pass it over to This Week in Tech with the Tims, Tim Beyers and Tim White. Maybe one more follow-up question on autonomy, things like that. A little side story, we've seen GM sue Ford for their use of the term BlueCruise to describe their new driver-assist technology that Ford is going to be coming out with. What do you make of that lawsuit and where we're at as far as these big automakers making a Tesla autopilot-like offering?

John Rosevear: I think these are Level 2 if you follow the SAE taxonomy. These are highway hands-free driving assist systems like Autopilot, as opposed to Full Self-Driving, which is something else with Tesla. Super Cruise that GM is rolling out across its slate, Ford's product is the same thing. Yes, they called it BlueCruise, GM said, "Well, you can't do that because it's too close to 'Super Cruise.'" My take on that is that these two children have been feuding since the mid-1920s, why stop now? It's really an inside-baseball Detroit story. I expect it will be resolved, either the judge will throw it out or Ford will pay GM $0.50 or something. It will go away. But I think increasingly, these systems are becoming table stakes. Maybe not on $18,000 subcompacts, but three years from now, maybe a little more, we may see these as standard safety features. Already, we're talking about automatic emergency braking maybe being made mandatory in the United States. I think that's one of the bills that's in Congress right now. Some other things like that, these are technologies that come out of those efforts that are maybe a couple of years back now for those who are on the cutting edge, but everybody is doing it, you've got to have it. Whether they call it BlueCruise, or "This Is Definitely Not GM's Cruise", whatever they end up calling it, it should do fine. The one review I've seen on the system so far said, "Hey, this works really well on an F-150 Hybrid." It's a big truck to steer around, it was smooth on the highway curves, stayed in the center of its lane, stuff like that. Apparently, the system's good, or at least from that early review, it's good. I expect it will sell well, I expect again over time, as with any sort of safety technology add-ons as we've seen over the years all the way back to anti-lock brakes, it starts on high-end products as an option and then you go out a decade or whatever and everybody's got it.

Sciple: Anytime we see automakers competing on safety, I think that's something that gets me excited.

Rosevear: Absolutely. 

Nick Sciple has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Tesla. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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