General Motors Files Lawsuit Against Rival Ford for Naming its New Autonomous Driving Feature ‘BlueCruise'

General Motors Files Lawsuit Against Rival Ford for Naming its New Autonomous Driving Feature ‘BlueCruise'

Author: Eric Walz   

General Motors and its autonomous driving arm Cruise LLC have filed a lawsuit to stop rival Ford Motor Co from using the name "BlueCruise" for its new autonomous driving feature that offers hands-free driving on highways.

Ford announced the name BlueCruise in April for its new automated driving feature.

General Motors' autonomous driving system is called "Super Cruise" and the automaker claims that Ford's calling its autonomous driving feature BlueCruise infringes on its trademark, as well as Cruise's trademark.

General Motors announced its hand-free driving systems Super Cruise in 2012, well before rival automakers. When it made its debut in 2017, it was available in the CT6 from GM's luxury division Cadillac, but now its rolling out to other GM vehicles.

GM plans to make Super Cruise available for 22 vehicles by 2023, including for the Cadillac Lyriq and GMC Hummer SUV electric vehicles.

When Ford announced the name BlueCruise in April, we pointed out in our coverage that the two names are very similar and the decision to use the name would likely trigger a response from rival GM, which is now the case.

"Ford knew what it was doing," GM said in the lawsuit. "Ford's decision to rebrand by using a core mark used by GM and Cruise will inevitably cause confusion."

In the lawsuit, filed on Friday, GM said the two companies had held "protracted discussions" over the matter, but failed to resolve the dispute.

"While GM had hoped to resolve the trademark infringement matter with Ford amicably, we were left with no choice but to vigorously defend our brands and protect the equity our products and technology have earned over several years in the market," GM said in its statement.

GM is claiming trademark infringement and unfair competition in the lawsuit and asked the court for an order to stop Ford from using the BlueCruise name, along with unspecified damages.

Ford called the lawsuit "meritless and frivolous" in its response.

"Drivers for decades have understood what cruise control is, every automaker offers it, and 'cruise' is a common shorthand for the capability," Ford said in a statement. "That's why BlueCruise was chosen as the name for the Blue Oval's next evolution of Ford's Intelligent Adaptive Cruise Control."

Both Super Cruise and BlueCruise are similar to Tesla's Autopilot, which offers hand-free driving on highways. The hands-free semi-autonomous driving technology is also being rolled out by other automakers

These advanced driver assist systems (ADAS) systems control the steering to keep a vehicle centered in a lane and maintain a safe distance from other vehicles. More advanced versions can change lanes to pass slower moving vehicles.  

However, all of the systems currently being offered by automakers are not truly "self-driving". BlueCruise and Super Cruise are considered to be SAE Level-2 autonomous driving systems, which require driver supervision at all times. 

The systems also use sensors to ensure that a driver has their hands on the wheel. If the system detects that a driver has not touched the steering wheel, it will prompt the driver with a warning message. If a driver fails to comply the autonomous driving systems will automatically disengage.

GM's unit Cruise, which is based in San Francisco, has been operating since 2013. GM took a majority stake in Cruise in Feb 2016 for a reported $1 billion so it could help the automaker jumpstart its own autonomous driving development. 

Cruise and GM are working to launch an autonomous ride-hailing service using a fleet of self-driving Chevy Bolt EVs outfitted with autonomous driving technology developed by Cruise. 

GM, Cruise and Japan's Honda Motor Co have also co-developed an autonomous multi-passenger autonomous shuttle called the Cruise Origin that will be part of a commercial robotaxi service. The Cruise Origin was unveiled in Jan 2020 at an event in San Francisco.

It will be interesting to see how GM's case plays out in court. The word "cruise" has been used in the auto industry for decades as "cruise control", which simply maintains a vehicle's preset speed on highways.   

Ford only plans to offer BlueCruise on two vehicles later this year – the 2021 Ford F-150 and electric Mustang Mach-E. In order to get BlueCruise, customers must purchase one of these vehicles as well as the available Ford Co-Pilot360 Active 2.0 Prep Package. 

For the F-150 pickup, the package will come standard on the range-topping Limited trim. The Lariat, King Ranch, and Platinum trims can be fitted with the package for an additional $995.

Eric Walz
Eric Walz
Originally hailing from New Jersey, Eric is a automotive & technology reporter covering the high-tech industry here in Silicon Valley. He has over 15 years of automotive experience and a bachelors degree in computer science. These skills, combined with technical writing and news reporting, allows him to fully understand and identify new and innovative technologies in the auto industry and beyond. He has worked at Uber on self-driving cars and as a technical writer, helping people to understand and work with technology.
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