GM will launch its Super Cruise advanced highway automatic driving feature this fall, debuting first in the new Cadillac CT6. Super Cruise has been in the works for a few years now, and the semi-autonomous drive mode is finally almost ready for its debut, after its release date was pushed from 2016 to 2017 to give engineers more time to focus on designing the safest system possible.
Super Cruise offers features very similar to Tesla’s Autopilot, which can take over control of driving in highway settings, maintaining lane position and adapting speed based on surrounding traffic. The feature will be available on a limited basis, with access narrowed to “divided, limited-access highways” with “defined ‘on’ and ‘off’ ramps” according to The Verge. The system will also track driver head position using infrared cameras built into the steering wheel that will make sure they pay attention while the feature is engaged, and will alert them via a steering-wheel mounted light notification system, and audio alerts, if they stop.
GM has also incorporated a fail-safe measure that will safely stop the vehicle if a driver ends up not being able to respond to the alerts, a feature which Tesla also implements in its Autopilot software. Super Cruise can also be updated over-the-air, another similarity between it and Tesla’s offering.
Unlike Autopilot, however, GM’s semi-autonomous highway driving features incorporate LiDAR data – Tesla has refrained from equipping its vehicles with the high-resolution laser detection tech, and GM likewise isn’t putting LiDAR on consumer cars. Cost of components and the aesthetics likely make this an unappealing way to go, but GM has an interesting workaround to both use LiDAR data and keep it off production vehicles: It’s deploying a fleet of LiDAR mapping cars that will image highways where Super Cruise is used and make that information available to the system over-the-air.
The option is a paid add-on, with a $2,500 upgrade price and a $3,100 additional requirement if you get a trim-model that doesn’t include a driver assist suite lumped into the existing price.
Super Cruise finally getting on the road is definitely exciting, but this is also the year Elon Musk has said he’s aiming to field a first coast-to-coast test of Tesla’s full self-driving technology. In other words, we’re off to the autonomous races.