General Motors says its new Super Cruise feature is “the industry’s first true hands-free driving technology for the highway.” It will be available on the CT6, the brand’s latest top of the line sedan. The company says Super Cruise will only operate under certain conditions, such as on “divided, limited-access highways.”
Super Cruise will employ Lidar sensors, but with a twist. Rather than installing the bulky and expensive Lidar sensors on its production cars, it is using a fleet of Lidar equipped pilot cars to map roadways in advance. That information will then be shared with customers’ cars via over the air updates.
The system will use a camera with infrared lights built into the steering wheel to keep track of a driver’s head position. The tracking is designed to make certain the driver is still paying attention to the road ahead and not playing mahjongg on a smartphone while Super Cruise is active. The system will alert drivers through a array of lights on the steering wheel if it notices the driver’s attention is wandering. If not, the system will bring the vehicle to a “controlled stop” shoud the driver does not respond properly to alerts.
Which begs the question, if Super Cruise is truly a “hands free” system, why does the driver need to remain constantly vigilant? Isn’t the whole idea of autonomous driving to allow a driver not to pay attention to the road ahead? Otherwise, what’s the point? It sounds like Cadillac is offering nothing more than some warmed over and half baked auto steering and lane keeping function.
We will have to wait until cars equipped with Super Cruise are out driving in the real world before we know for certain what the system is capable of doing. Self driving technology is less about operating a car without a hand on the wheel and more about not needing to keep an eye on the road ahead.