On Thursday, Ford gave us the first details about a driver-assistance feature the company has hinted about in its upcoming all-electric 2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E.

The system, which will debut on the crossover next year, will offer hands-free driving on divided highways for indefinite periods of time. Ford's system, which piggybacks on its latest safety suite called Co-Pilot 360, will almost certainly appear on more vehicles later.

Officials from Ford said the hands-free system will require additional hardware fitted from the factory and rolled out to Mach-E crossovers via an over-the-air software update sometime in the second half of 2021. A Ford spokeswoman said the hardware and software would be purchased separately, but didn't say if the software would be a one-time payment or recurring subscription. Ford didn't say how much the system would ultimately cost, but said it would be "competitive" to systems on the market already.

Ford Mustang Mach-E Active Drive Assist

Ford Mustang Mach-E Active Drive Assist

That underscores the first key difference between Autopilot and Active Drive Assist.

Although Ford says feature updates for all of the Mach-E systems are available, it's clear that not all Mach-E's will leave the factory with the requisite hardware. That stands in contrast to Tesla's approach for the Model 3 and other cars that all leave the factory with necessary hardware to enable their driver-assist features, only the software is needed to turn on those features.

Unlike Tesla, Ford's hands-free system uses a driver-facing camera to determine attention to the road. Ford's infrared cameras can penetrate sunglasses and recognize faces even with a mask on, engineers said Thursday. The system is different than other driver-attention systems that use torque sensors in the steering rack to determine if a hand is present on the wheel, including Tesla's system. Such hardware has been defeated before with simple weights, and Ford's crosstown rival General Motors uses a similar driver-facing camera for its driver-attention system.

Ford Mustang Mach-E Active Drive Assist

Ford Mustang Mach-E Active Drive Assist

Like GM's Super Cruise, Ford's Active Drive Assist restricts use to divided highways that have been mapped by the automaker. Ford says more than 100,000 miles of mapped roadway will be open to the system, including roads in all 50 states and Canada. Tesla's Autopilot isn't restricted to highways mapped by the automaker, but uses the car's GPS to determine if it's traveling on a highway.

Unlike Tesla, Ford isn't making promises about its Active Drive Assist system performing robo-taxi duties or full-self driving from coast to coast. Ford says that its features could be updated in the future, but didn't specify what those upgrades could include.

Like Autopilot, Ford says its Active Drive Assist is a Level 2 driver-assist feature, although the Blue Oval's name doesn't imply anything beyond help for the car's first chair.

Correction: A previous version of this story misstated the system's availability on the Mustang Mach-E. The hands-free system is available on all trims.