GM will offer its hands-free highway driving system on all of its Cadillac models beginning in 2020, an expansion of semi-autonomous technology that until now has existed in only in its CT6 luxury sedan.
The Super Cruise system will roll out to other GM brands after 2020, the automaker announced Wednesday. Cadillac will also offer vehicle-to-infrastructure communications in a high-volume crossover by 2023. V2X allows the vehicle to communicate with city infrastructure such as traffic signals and can issue warnings to the driver of hazardous road conditions ahead.
The technology will eventually expand across Cadillac’s portfolio, according to Mark Reuss, GM’s executive vice president of global product development, purchasing and supply chain.
To be clear, Super Cruise is not a fully autonomous system. It’s a driver assistance system—a very advanced one—that steers, brakes, and accelerates while automatically adjusting the speed to maintain a safe distance from other vehicles ahead. The driver can “drive” hands and feet free. But that driver can’t fall asleep or play with their phone. An eye tracking system in the vehicle ensures the driver is watching the road ahead and can take over if needed.
Super Cruise uses LiDAR map data, high precision GPS, and a combination of camera and radar sensors, and an eye tracking feature. Customers can drive hands-free on more than 130,000 miles of limited-access freeways in the U.S. and Canada, according to GM.
The move is an important step for GM and helps it compete with Tesla and other car companies that are developing more advanced driver assistance systems. However, this isn’t some immediate death blow to Tesla, although many will certainly toss out “Tesla killer” in response to the announcement.
GM is taking its time rolling out Super Cruise, giving competitors plenty of breathing room. At least for now.
And while Super Cruise challenges Tesla’s own semi-autonomous driving system Autopilot, GM made it far more restrictive on where it can be used. Super Cruise is limited by GPS to divided highways, essentially expressways that use on- and off-ramps.
Tesla’s Autopilot is designed for highways as well, but it’s far more permissive and theoretically works on regular roads too if the forward-facing camera and radar can see enough and has another car in front of it to follow. Autopilot doesn’t recognize traffic lights or stop signs.