GM unveils semi-autonomous Super Cruise in the 2018 Cadillac CT6

Make some room in the cruising lane, Tesla: Cadillac’s Super Cruise is ready for action.

The long-developed product, coming as an add-on feature for the 2018 CT6 sedan, will jockey with Tesla’s Autopilot to be the best semi-autonomous experience on the highway.  

The luxury carmaker has been working on the system since 2012 and teased it last month when it debuted vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication as a standard feature in the 2017 CTS sedan.  

Super Cruise is just the first step in GM’s efforts to bring a self-driving system to the road — the Big Three automaker, which was ranked second in a recent report on autonomous development, started testing autonomous Chevy Bolts in Michigan late last year following its acquisition of Cruise Automation and $500 million investment in Lyft.

Cadillac’s new platform depends on a combo of advanced LiDAR-mapped data and a driver attention system to allow for what the automaker is touting as “the industry’s first hands-free” cruising experience. 

The description practically shoots shade at Tesla and other luxury competitors with advanced driver assistants on the road, like the Mercedes Benz E-Class Drive Pilot, which require hands-on attentiveness at all times. A Cadillac rep confirmed to us via email that Super Cruise is considered a Level 2 autonomous system, though — so that means it’s explicitly not a self-driving car. 

Unlike its competitors, which only depend on real-time sensor data, the Super Cruise’s LiDAR system uses data from a map of “every mile of limited-access highway [roadways with defined “on-” and “off-ramps] in the U.S. and Canada,” according to Cadillac. The mapped data pairs with real-time information from sensors, cameras, and GPS to keep the car in its lane and on the road.

The Super Cruise team made driver awareness a major priority in its development, no doubt having learned from Tesla’s Autopilot crash saga. Its driver engagement system depends on a camera mounted in the steering column and an infrared light, which monitors the driver’s head position to keep track of where they’re looking. 

If a driver isn’t paying enough attention to the road, the system uses the light built into the steering wheel and other alerts to jolt them back to attention. In emergencies, the system is designed to stop the car and contact emergency services via OnStar.

The driver attention system is built right into the steering wheel.

It’s a bit off-putting to think your car could be recording you at all times — or at least when Super Cruise is enabled — but a Cadillac rep confirmed to us via email that none of the Super Cruise hardware or software is capable of storing images.  

Super Cruise is built for the highway — at least for now. “While it is technically possible for the technology to drive hands-free on other kinds of streets and roads, we feel strongly that this targeted approach is the best to build consumer and regulatory confidence and enthusiasm for advanced mobility,” said Barry Walkup, the chief engineer behind the platform.  

The tech — which won’t be a standard feature for the CT6 — comes at an extra cost. Cadillac didn’t initially share pricing information, but the rep told us it’s an extra $2,500 to add to the Premium Luxury and Platinum editions of the car, which’ll run you $66,290 and $85,290, respectively, before tacking on Super Cruise. 

Tesla’s Autopilot system, for comparison, can cost up to $5,000 depending on the package.   

Super Cruise will be available in the U.S. and Canada starting this fall. There’s no word on if it’ll eventually make its way to other GM cars — the rep declined to comment on a wider rollout for the system — but for now, it’s a start.

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