General Motors is throwing around fifty-cent words like "haptic" and phrases like "directional tactile sensation" to describe its new Safety Alert Seat, which vibrates to warn the driver of potential dangers like wandering out of one's lane. The seat employs two electric motors to create its directional feedback, and it's at the center of both safety packages Cadillac will be introducing this year. The first is aimed at merely providing the driver with safety alerts, while a more comprehensive suite will also offer vehicle intervention. Cadillac is using six radar sensors, eight ultrasonic sensors and two vision cameras to drive the new safety systems.
The Driver Awareness Package will debut with the launch of the XTS in the spring and offers the seat, Forward Collision Alert, Lane Departure Warning, Side Blind Zone Alert and Rear Cross Traffic Alert. In the fall, Cadillac will begin offering the Driver Assist Package, which adds Adaptive Cruise Control, Front and Rear Automatic Braking, and Automatic Collision Preparation. Both packages will also be offered on the SRX crossover, details of which we expect to hear about at the New York Auto Show. Click through the jump to read more and to view two demonstration videos.
Much of this technology has already appeared in products from both GM and other carmakers, and we suspect that Cadillac is trying to leapfrog past its competition by developing the unique seat. After a brief demonstration at GM's Milford, MI, proving grounds, however, we're not entirely sure what to make of the technology. On the one hand, it's almost so simple that you wonder why no one has thought of it before. On the other, it seems gimmicky.
While other carmakers have used vibrating steering wheels to alert drivers, the seat is the one other part of the car that you're always in contact with when you're behind the wheel, and it's a great delivery path for the vibratory warnings. Cadillac brass say their customers will appreciate that the warnings from the seat are "private and discreet," although drivers can also choose to disable the vibrating warnings in favor of more traditional audible alerts.
Among the other new safety features we tested was the Rear Automatic Braking System, or "virtual bumper," as Cadillac refers to it. Designed for anyone who has ever inadvertently backed into a pole, fence, fire hydrant or some other bumper-denting object, the system engages an automatic, last-minute slam on the brakes to prevent or mitigate contact. We were impressed with the virtual bumper system, and we shot a little video of it being demonstrated in an SRX.
Control and alert strategy assists drivers and can take action if needed
DETROIT – Cadillac will introduce a network of cameras, radar and ultrasonic sensors on the all-new 2013 XTS and ATS luxury sedans designed to help drivers avoid crashes by improving their vision and awareness of road hazards, even braking automatically if sensors predict the vehicle is at risk of crashing.
"New technology in the XTS and ATS is intended to extend the vision around the car to help drivers identify obstacles. When necessary, the vehicle may take action to help them avoid a collision," said Don Butler, vice president of Cadillac Marketing. "Cadillac expands its lineup dramatically in 2013, and these technologies are an important component."
The Driver Awareness Package, available for the launch of the XTS this spring and ATS this summer, and Driver Assist Package, available on XTS and ATS this fall, includes:
Safety Seat Alert – Uses auto industry-first directional seat vibrations on either the left and/or right side of the driver's seat cushion, depending on the location and nature of the impending concern, alerts the driver to a potential collision. Threats from the front and rear trigger pulses on both sides of the seats. It works with other visual alerts, and research shows it can quickly and accurately focus driver attention to the direction of potential crashes. It also may help drivers who may be annoyed by or not hear beeping alerts. The driver may also program the system to replace seat vibrations with beeps.
Forward Collision Alert – Radar and camera technology detect a possible front-end collision threat and alert the driver, giving him or her additional time to react. The driver can set the alerting time to far, medium or near settings.
Lane Departure Warning – A camera-based lane detection system alerts the driver of unsignalled lane changes. If a turn signal is used, it will not send a warning. The camera, mounted near the inside rearview mirror, identifies traffic lane markings. Lane Departure Warning activates at speeds above 35 miles per hour.
Side Blind Zone Alert – Using radar sensors on both sides of the vehicle, the system "looks" for other vehicles in the blind zone areas and indicates their presence with symbols lit in the outside mirrors. This technology alerts drivers to vehicles that otherwise might escape their vision. If the driver activates the turn signal in the direction of the detected vehicle, the symbol will flash to provide extra warning not to change lanes.
Rear Cross Traffic Alert – Using radar sensors, it warns the driver of approaching cross traffic when backing out of a parking spot. Left or right-side alerts are triggered if moving vehicles are detected. The system helps give drivers more time to react to obstacles that may be difficult to see in the side mirror.
Adaptive Forward Lighting – With adaptive forward lighting, the projector headlamps swivel in the direction of the front wheels to maintain forward lighting in concert with vehicle steering. Heading into a curve or turning around a corner, the headlamps swivel up to 15 degrees at varying speeds, depending on the severity of the curve and the vehicle speed. The system works with both low- and high-beam headlamp settings. The system improves visibility at night and in inclement weather compared to traditional headlamps, making driving easier.
Rear Vision Camera With Dynamic Guidelines – With a display in the center stack, the camera provides a natural view of objects directly behind the XTS or ATS. Dynamic guide lines laid over the video image assist in parking maneuvers by showing the vehicle's path and available space.
Full-Speed Adaptive Cruise Control – This system uses radar and vision sensing to detect a vehicle ahead and calculate its distance and relative speed, and then sends a message to the onboard computer to maintain a driver-selected following time/distance. When the traffic has cleared or the object has moved, the system will accelerate the vehicle back to the previously set speed. Like conventional cruise control, the driver can always control the system by applying the brakes or accelerator.
Front and Rear Automatic Braking – Using radar and ultrasonic sensors, this feature can help prevent or mitigate front and rear collisions at low speeds via a progression of alerts that extends to complete braking if necessary. In effect, the system works like a "virtual bumper." For example, if the vehicle is in stop-and-go traffic, the system will alert if the lead vehicle slows unexpectedly and, if needed, brake the vehicle to help prevent an impact or reduce impact speed.
Automatic Collision Preparation – When the XTS and ATS sense a collision is imminent, braking is applied to lessen the impact severity with the vehicle detected ahead, or even enable the driver to avoid the crash.
Intelligent Brake Assist – Detects a panic-braking situation and assists a braking driver by automatically applying added brake force to help slow the vehicle more quickly. This system uses radar and vision sensors to help the driver avoid or mitigate damage caused by a front-end crash.
The Driver Assist Package uses sensor fusion, which integrates a broad range of sensing and positioning technologies. Sensor fusion is a key to Cadillac's ongoing work in developing sophisticated, self-driving systems able to do things such as automatically maintain lane position and adapt to surrounding traffic. Semi-autonomous or even fully autonomous driving systems could be available by the end of the decade.
Beyond the new technologies, XTS and ATS have a strong body structure and 10 standard air bags. Other standard safety features include:
• Dual-stage frontal driver air bag
• Dual-stage frontal passenger air bag with passenger sensing system
• Driver and front passenger side-impact air bars
• Driver and front passenger knee air bags
• Outboard head curtain air bags, front and rear, with rollover sensing
• Outboard rear thorax air bags
• Safety belt pretensioners and load limiters
• Child seat LATCH system
• StabiliTrak electronic stability control
• Four-wheel disc brakes with four-channel antilock brakes.
OnStar is standard on XTS and ATS. It uses GPS and cellular phone technology to automatically call for help in the event of collision. OnStar service also includes myCadillac and OnStar myLink mobile apps, which offer vehicle information and OnStar services via the customer's smartphone.