Don't be surprised if you see a Cadillac on the road later this year being driven by a driver who has both arms up in the air like he or she is riding a rollercoaster.

General Motors is plowing ahead with its plan to offer "hands-free driving," and is bringing the technology to the next level of testing, which includes real-world drives. The automaker hopes to have the technology on the market before 2020.

"Super Cruise is designed to give the driver the ability of hands-free driving when the system determines it is safe to do so," said John Capp, GM director of Global Active Safety Electronics and Innovation, in a press release. "Before we introduce this capability on a production vehicle we must put the system through rigorous testing and technology refinement."

General Motors is using other automatic driving-assistance technology, like cruise control, collision avoidance, driver awareness monitoring, lane-departure warnings, and GPS location tracking to make this system work. GM says those systems have reached a level of sophistication where engineers feel confident that they can take over complete control of steering, acceleration, braking and destination tracking in day-to-day driving situations.

GM engineers have combined these and other "active safety" features into a coordinated system that is currently undergoing real-world driving evaluation trials. GM says this technology, which it calls Super Cruise, "could make its way into production models later this decade."

Jeremy Salinger, the program's research and development manager, said GM is working to "continually upgrade Super Cruise's enabling technologies." These include radar, ultrasonic sensors and cameras that are used to determine and control driving speeds and distances from moving or stationary objects on all sides of the vehicle. Many of today's vehicles, even low-priced models, already include sensors which regulate cruise-control distance intervals from vehicles ahead and back-up sensors to assist parking.

GM says it believes hands-free driving will be most useful in bumper-to-bumper traffic and long-distance highway driving. However, the automaker is cautiously assessing not only the way the system handles real-world traffic situations, but also how drivers will interact with what it calls "semi-automated" driving systems.


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