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