Cadillac has just launched what they are calling "the industry’s first true hands-free driving technology for the highway." Super Cruise has automatic steering and speed control, letting drivers keep their hands off of the wheel, as long as they keep their eyes on the road.
The new system, debuting in the 2018 CT6, will keep the car centered in the lane and slow or speed up to match the set speed and traffic conditions. It uses LiDAR map data that Cadillac says covers "every mile of limited-access highway in the U.S. and Canada" letting the car know exactly where it is, and what the road ahead is going to do. That extra data, which Cadillac says locates the car four to eight times more precisely than GPS alone, will let the car drive itself on the highways Cadillac has mapped and programmed in.
The ability to drive hands free on the highway is what sets Super Cruise apart from systems like Mercedes-Benz's Drive Pilot, Volvo's Pilot Assist, and Tesla's Autopilot. Last year, Tesla changed their Autopilot system to require more driver attention. If you ignore repeated requests to keep your hands on or near the wheel, Autopilot will slow the car and disable the system. The Mercedes system can steer the car autonomously but again requires you to be hands-on. Both will change lanes when you indicate and can slow for signaled turns. Volvo's system will keep you in your lane, and maintain a set following distance, but only well-marked roads and at speeds up to 50 km/h.
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Super Cruise lets you go hands-free on the highway. It does make sure that you're paying attention to the road though. There is a camera that is watching your face, so if you are buried in your phone, the car will know. It can bring the car to a controlled stop if the driver doesn't start paying attention following a series of warnings. That same feature can detect some medical emergencies, which will let it stop the car and use OnStar to call emergency services.
But, for now, the system will only operate hands-free on "divided, limited-access highways - highways with defined on- and off-ramps." It has the ability to add other roads, but the lack of mapping data and taking what Cadillac president Johan de Nysschen calls a "safety-oriented approach to the rollout of this advanced technology" means that the limits will stay in place for now. The other features, including lane centering and adaptive cruise control, will work on all roads.
Super Cruise will debut this fall as an option on the 2018 Cadillac CT6.