It’s Super. And I’m cruising. Introducing GM’s first bona fide hands-free driving technology making its debut on the 2018 Cadillac CT6. We were invited by the folks at Cadillac to test Super Cruise — their brilliant hands-free driving system for the freeway — on a two-day road trip from Cleveland to Chicago to Memphis that covered more than 900 miles.
Super Cruise is designed to make both commuting and long-distance road trips a lot easier on the driver but do not think for a moment that this is a fully-autonomous driving system. The hands-free driving system does a great job of piloting the car on the highway but the driver must be continually aware of their surroundings and ongoing traffic conditions. Something that should be done at all times when behind the wheel of a car.
Cadillac’s system affords hands-free operation at speeds up to 85 mph by essentially incorporating the CT6’s adaptive cruise control with both a forward-facing camera to monitor the road ahead, precision LiDAR map data, and a sophisticated “driver attention” system. Super Cruise, however, will only operate on “limited-access highways,” which are considered divided multi-lane roads having well-defined on- and off-ramps. And it will continue to work in tunnels up to one kilometer before prompting for driver control.
When the car leaves the highway, and under certain other conditions, it returns control to the driver.
Super Cruise simply won’t work over city streets or roads with intersections. And it knows what type of road you’re currently traversing, thanks to an advanced LiDAR-scanned mapping of the entire U.S. and Canadian highway systems that are aided with high-performance GPS sensors.
In addition to the more than 160,000 miles of precision mapped roadways, the map database also keeps a record of scheduled road construction. As our highways evolve and undergo repair operations, the detailed map database is diligently updated and maintained by GM. These map updates are pushed to cars with Super Cruise at regular intervals or more often if necessary.
The combination of LiDAR and an advance GPS-system help the hands-free driving system flawlessly anticipate and react to hills and curves along the way. If it gauges a bend in the road too tight for the speed set in cruise control, the system will even slow the car to a safe speed before entering the turn.
Unfortunately, you can’t Facebook or catch up on your emails while Super Cruise is engaged. That’s because the system uses a steering-wheel-mounted camera to ensure the driver is mindfully monitoring the road and is ready to re-take control of the vehicle if necessary. It works as well at night as it does in bright sunlight, and can even follow a motorist’s eye movement through dark sunglasses.
The one minor weakness we discovered about the infra-red sensors tracking eye and face movements occurs when sunlight is directly hitting the top of the steering wheel. The morning sunlight shining onto the steering wheel confused the infra-red sensors and we often had to move our head forward to keep Super Cruise from disengaging.
If the driver is looking away or otherwise becomes inattentive, the system will give a series of visual, audible, and haptic warnings. Continue to ignore the alert signals, the system will then go ahead and disable itself until the car is switch off and restarted; should Super Cruise determine the motorist has become unresponsive, it will bring the vehicle to a controlled stop and contact first responders via OnStar.
Not surprising, there is a learning curve involved getting to know when Super Cruise is available on a drive and how to pass control back and forth when the driver has to be hands-on and when the system is engaged for hands-free driving. Once we got past our “trust” issues and saw how well Super Cruise worked on the long drive — keeping the CT6 perfectly centered in the lane, slowing and speeding up as traffic conditions changed — we thought to ourselves that GM has come up with a winner.
We recently finished a long road trip to Oregon and back and would have relished having a system to help us get past the long, boring sections of highway. It truly takes away some of the mental stress and physical tension encountered on extended drives.
Super Cruise is included in the 2018 Cadillac CT6 $85,290 Platinum trim or as a $5,000 option on the $66,290 Premium Luxury trim. We expect this hands-free technology to trickle over to other vehicles in Cadillac’s product line. It’s just that Cadillac hasn’t spilled the beans as to who and when will get it next.
Check back in a couple of days to check out TFL’s video of Cadillac’s autonomous driving system in action.