You might not yet have heard of Super Cruise and no, it’s not a 21st century spinoff of the hit 1970s TV series The Love Boat. You are visiting an automotive site, not Nickelodeon Online.

Super Cruise is an autonomous driving system that will be offered in the 2018 Cadillac CT6 this fall. Cadillac claims it’s “the industry’s first true hand-free driving technology.”

A steering wheel light bar indicates the status of Super Cruise™ and will prompt the driver to return their attention to the road ahead if the system detects driver attention has turned away from the road too long.

Buried in a word salad most assuredly co-written by a roomful of lawyers, GM goes on to share the details about Super Cruise: a driver-attention system, precision LiDAR map data combine with a network of cameras and radar sensors to enhance “hands-free capabilities” in the coming version of the CT6. LiDAR or Light Detection and Ranging uses pulsed laser beams to measure distances.

The whole Love Boat…er, Super Cruise system is perfect for long-distance travels and daily commutes, we’re told. This is a “data-rich approach to driver assistance” and it is “unique in the industry.”

Caddy’s claims to the contrary, a stunningly long list of companies are digging into the technologies that enable self-driving cars. The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) reports that 30 companies have been issued Autonomous Vehicle Testing permits. They range from GM to Tesla, Google to Apple, Volkswagen, Nissan, Mercedes-Benz, Bosch, Ford, Zoox Inc., Wheego Electric Cars and even something called Udacity Inc. All aim to revolutionize the auto industry. They want to strip away control from drivers, giving it to computers.

Hands-free driving technology for the highway through Super Cruise™ is a button push away on the 2018 Cadillac CT6 sedan.

A new study by J.D. Power and Associates points out that part of that future is already here. Autopilot hardware and software the likes of Super Cruise is already available in various forms. Tesla’s Autopilot is perhaps the most well-known of the bunch. But the field is quickly becoming crowded.

Power argues that fully autonomous vehicles will not be commonplace for decades, but the vision of intelligent cars that drive themselves will eventually become a reality. But not before many legal, technical and practical hurdles are overcome.

Nonetheless, J.D. Power’s research shows that nearly half (47 per cent) of consumers think fully autonomous vehicles will be available by 2025. Of these, one in five (20 per cent) think fully autonomous vehicles will be ready by 2020.

The driver information cluster showcases the status of Super Cruise™.

Consumers, however, are not sold on the technology, even if they believe it’s coming. Power found that 61 per cent of consumers say they “definitely would not” trust a self-driving vehicle and would not even ride in one.

J.D. Power officials, however, say car companies and their current and future suppliers will clear the engineering hurdles in front of self-driving cars.

“Can we take consumers with us? Can we kind of ferry them over this river of doubt and mistrust and fear and, frankly, lack of understanding and get them to the other side?” asks Dave Sargent, vice-president of global engineering at J.D. Power. “I think we can,” he adds. “The winners are going to be the folks that can do that the best.”

Without question, semi-autonomous technologies grow commonplace, the idea of fully self-driving cars will become less scary. Advanced driver assistance systems are already popular with many consumers and these are some available right now:

  • Smart headlights: capabilities include turning into corners, adjusting their beams depending upon traffic, and even widening in rural areas to help spot animals and pedestrians;
  • Camera rear view mirrors: they replace traditional mirrors with cameras;
  • Emergency braking and steering systems: intervene if a driver doesn’t react quickly enough to avoid a collision;
  • Lane change assist systems: automatically complete a pass or steer around objects.

This brings us back to Super Cruise, which GM argues is a major leap ahead in the race to fully autonomous. The coming system from Caddy watches the driver’s eyes through an infrared camera on the steering column to determine whether or not the driver is monitoring the autonomous driving actions of the CT6 – and not watching a movie or sleeping.

The driver attention system uses a small camera located on the top of the steering column and works with infrared lights to determine where the driver is looking whenever Super Cruise™ is in operation.

As long as the driver looks at the road ahead every seven to 20 seconds, Super Cruise stays engaged. But if you take your eyes off the road for too long, the car will unleash a series of escalating alerts intended to get you engaged. If you don’t respond, your CT6 will eventually slow a stop and alert OnStar for help.

You see, in the age of autonomous vehicles, you are never alone.


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