Cadillac is trying to make a name for itself on the safety and technology front, recently introducing its new Safety Alert Seat and outfitting new models with a suite of safety equipment that arguably puts it among the leaders in the industry. We got a chance to sample some of this last month, but we were also allowed to "drive" a semi-autonomous SRX test mule equipped with what Cadillac is calling "Super Cruise."

Nominally an improvement on adaptive cruise control, Super Cruise is actually a more sophisticated system that uses a camera communicating with the car's GPS to "see" the road ahead. It goes one step further than currently available systems, however, automatically centering the vehicle in the lane using its electric power steering system. Unlike other active lane-departure systems that use a car's brakes to help prevent it from veering off the road, the system General Motors is developing allows for precisely setting the vehicle's position within the lane. The test mule we sampled had steering-wheel-mounted buttons that would allow you to "nudge" the car from side to side by a foot at a time without upsetting its course. Super Cruise also communicates with the vehicle's other active safety systems to help prevent and mitigate crashes.

Super Cruise is designed only for use on the highway, to "ease the driver's workload."

Super Cruise is designed only for use on the highway, to "ease the driver's workload," with drivers still required to steer in city traffic and for more complicated maneuvers like passing. GM officials acknowledged the difficulty in deploying a system like this, a technology that if used improperly may encourage inattentive driving. Supposedly the system will only be functional under the specific circumstances for which it is designed, much like today's in-car entertainment systems will not play video on the front screen unless a vehicle is in Park. Currently the system is somewhat limited by external factors, like weather and the need for distinct lane markings. If visibility is low or the road doesn't have at least one clear lane demarcation, Super Cruise won't function. However, GM says it will improve the vision abilities of the system as it readies the technology for the marketplace.

GM says that Super Cruise could be introduced into production vehicles in just a few years, "by mid-decade." While on the one hand, its ability to help improve the safety of our roads is laudable, we can't help but express our frustration at the march of technology headed inevitably towards removing the physical act of driving from the motoring equation.

Scroll down to watch some video of us aboard the Super Cruise-equipped test mule and read the full press release.
Show full PR text
Self-Driving Car in Cadillac's Future
'Super cruise' technology could be ready by mid-decade


DETROIT – Cadillac is road testing a semi-autonomous technology it calls "Super Cruise" that is capable of fully automatic steering, braking and lane-centering in highway driving under certain optimal conditions. The system could be ready for production vehicles by mid-decade.
Super Cruise is designed to ease the driver's workload on the freeway, in both bumper-to-bumper traffic and on long road trips by relying on a fusion of radar, ultrasonic sensors, cameras and GPS map data.

"Super Cruise has the potential to improve driver performance and enjoyment," said Don Butler, vice president of Cadillac marketing. "Our goal with advanced technologies, like this and our CUE system, is to lead in delivering an intuitive user experience."

Many of the building block technologies for Super Cruise are already available on the all-new 2013 Cadillac XTS and ATS luxury sedans, as part of the available Driver Assist Package. It is the first Cadillac system to use sensor fusion to provide 360 degrees of crash risk detection and enhanced driver assist features, including:
  • Rear Automatic Braking
  • Full-Speed Range Adaptive Cruise Control
  • Intelligent Brake Assist
  • Forward Collision Alert
  • Safety Alert Seat
  • Automatic Collision Preparation
  • Lane Departure Warning
  • Side Blind Zone Alert
  • Rear Cross Traffic Alert
  • Adaptive Forward Lighting
  • Rear Vision Camera With Dynamic Guidelines
  • Head Up Display
The key to delivering semi-autonomous capability will be the integration of lane-centering technology that relies on forward-looking cameras to detect lane markings and GPS map data to detect curves and other road characteristics, said John Capp, General Motors director of Global Active Safety Electronics and Innovation.

Even when semi-autonomous driving capability is available on vehicles, the system will have operational limitations based on external factors such as weather and visibility of lane markings. When reliable data is unavailable, the driver will need to steer.

GM and its research partners recently conducted a study funded by the Federal Highway Administration on human factors in semi-autonomous vehicle operation. When asked, some study participants expressed strong interest in having a vehicle that could drive itself, particularly for long trips when lane centering and full-speed range adaptive cruise control could help lighten the driver's workload.

"The primary goal of GM's autonomous and semi-autonomous vehicle development is safety," Capp said. "In the coming years, autonomous driving systems paired with advanced safety systems could help eliminate the crash altogether by interceding on behalf of drivers before they're even aware of a hazardous situation. More than ever, consumers will be able to trust their car to do the right thing."


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 54 Comments
      ufgrat
      • 3 Years Ago
      Now, THIS will increase distracted driving. Now you can safely text, email, surf the web, watch a video, all while completely ignoring what's going on around you-- right up until you have a massive accident. On the plus side, you'll be fairly relaxed, since you won't have seen the massive accident heading for you.
        Alex740
        • 3 Years Ago
        @ufgrat
        Exactly dead on, this tech just allows you to not pay attention at all even though the car can't completely drive itself, incredibly terrible idea.
        Timothy Tibbetts
        • 3 Years Ago
        @ufgrat
        I have it in my Jeep and you are right, it is easier to text or check your Facebook because you know the car will brake if you get too close, etc.
      MrWhopee
      • 3 Years Ago
      I for one welcome this inevitable new technology. Even if you're a driving enthusiasts, I'm sure occasionally you just want to get there, such as when you're sleepy or tired. This is probably safer than a tired/sleepy driver. Though I think it will be some time before people trust the system enough to actually sleep as it's driving, rather than watching with wide-eyed terror.
      Echelon Bob
      • 3 Years Ago
      What happens if the lane markers suddenly disappear or are obstructed? Does an alarm sound? What if the "driver" is preoccupied, having been lulled into a sense of security? A system that ultimately still depends on quick reaction times from the driver to ensure safety is not good automation. I can only see this working in conjunction with GPS systems with pre-designated "well marked roadway" zones, with ample warning on transitions.
      desinerd1
      • 3 Years Ago
      It's not as cool as Google's self driving Prius (which can drive in the city as well) but unlike Google's efforts, this will actually come to market. sign me up please.
      RocketRed
      • 3 Years Ago
      So the burden of keeping the car going straight and not hitting cars in front was a misery crying out for technological amelioration? If you find this a "burden" you should not be behind the wheel. Coming soon, zombie cars racing down the road at 75mph while the individual behind the wheel is giving a powerpoint presentation by WebEx. It's not a matter of luddism. This is a growing phenomenon of accomodation of the lowest common denominator of diligence and basic awareness of drivers. The effort is ultimately self-defeating, because the denominator will simply continue to fall until we needs new systems to ensure that people actually engage and disengage required systems or that they are further automated. Generally, satefy and cooperative behavior in public spaces is improved by facilitating diligent participation, not obviating it. Before anyone says it, yes, airplanes are mostly automated now. But the difference is that pilots require constant, actual training in how to fly the airplane without the automatic aids, and how to manage those aids. And even so, a growing, new problem with air safety is the failure of the machine and human elements of control to negotiate successful, safe transitions between each other, or to provide each other with useful feedback.
        desinerd1
        • 3 Years Ago
        @RocketRed
        I don't know where you live, but I have to drive daily at 35miles an hour on a highway where speed limit is 65. Or perhaps you work from home and you drive just for fun, but 99% of us use cars to commute and not for recreation.
        desinerd1
        • 3 Years Ago
        @RocketRed
        Also, most airplane crashes are due to bad weather and human error.
      DooMMasteR
      • 3 Years Ago
      that is already available on many Audis, VW Passat, Mercs and BMWs for good reasons you are not allowed to let the wheel lose but the car will stay in the lane steer corners and brake and accelerate if the condition requires it to I dunno if those features are completely deactivated in the US bit here in Europe the driver has to keep its hands on the wheel otherwise the system will warn you and then slow the car down an disengage control over acceleration and steering
      Skean
      • 3 Years Ago
      Woohoo, 70mph club here I come!
      Hazdaz
      • 3 Years Ago
      They've had stuff like this for decades now. Its called public transit. These self-driving systems are a 1/2-ass solution to a problem that no one asked to solve. You are still clogging up the roads, polluting as much, using as much fuel, still have to worry about parking and still have all the previous costs of owning a vehicle, just now you get to sit there on-edge watching a robot turn the wheel for you. How about instead you leave the car at home and hop on some public transit which alleviates much of the issues listed above. I love cars more than just about anyone, but if I didn't HAVE TO drive someplace (such as commuting), I would be much happier, richer and less stressed.
        1454
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Hazdaz
        THATS ALL NICE AN WONDERFUL IN THE CITY. But what about the people who live in rural areas? I live in charlotte and the public transit system is useless. And charlotte is a MAJOR city. Until january of this year I was driving 35 miles one way, so please don't say this is a "problem no one was asked to solve". Do us all a favor and stop commenting.
      • 3 Years Ago
      [blocked]
        1454
        • 3 Years Ago
        I welcome autonomous cars. Computers only know what they are programmed to do. Not to mention, in car, they usually have double and triple redundancies to prevent an error. Planes fly themselves except for takeoff and landings, and you trust them and the pilots that control them. This is just the same thing. The further you remove the human element in cars, then safer and more efficient they will be. When we can type in "car, take me home", that will be the greatest day on earth. As I can set it, and take a nap. Now that time I waste in the car can now be made into productive time.
        1454
        • 3 Years Ago
        I welcome autonomous cars. Computers only know what they are programmed to do. Not to mention, in car, they usually have double and triple redundancies to prevent an error. Planes fly themselves except for takeoff and landings, and you trust them and the pilots that control them. This is just the same thing. The further you remove the human element in cars, then safer and more efficient they will be. When we can type in "car, take me home", that will be the greatest day on earth. As I can set it, and take a nap. Now that time I waste in the car can now be made into productive time.
          1454
          • 3 Years Ago
          @1454
          Sorry, not sure why this double posted.
      • 3 Years Ago
      [blocked]
        • 3 Years Ago
        [blocked]
      jbm0866
      • 3 Years Ago
      No Just no Not only would it be more stressful (for me at least) to sit passively and hope the onboard computers know what they're doing...but I wouldn't want to share the road with someone letting the car do the driving. (although in some cases that wouldn't be a bad thing)
      Andre Neves
      • 3 Years Ago
      My prediction: prototype autonomous vehicles.........production autonomous vehicles..........slow sales of autonomous vehicles............studies showing autonomous vehicles far safer for pedestrians and motorists.....government offers tax credit for autonomous vehicles buyers.........government-backed media/statistics start reporting more on non-autonomous vehicle accidents/deaths more often......."WAR ON" non-autonomous vehicles in effect.......insurance rates on non-autonomous vehicles skyrockets making them unaffordable for large part of the general population......NHTSA/Government mandate autonomous vehicle production numbers to manufacturers.......we're all driving effin' robot cars!!! Call it a Conspiracy Theory now, but when you start following certain things in the world, a pattern usually starts becoming visible in most things.
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