The 2018 Cadillac CT6 will be the first car to offer true hands-free driving

Self-driving cars are coming. There’s no way around it, and come 2018, you’ll be able to get a Cadillac that lets you go truly hands-free. This new technology is being called “Super Cruise” and uses lidar map data along with onboard radar sensors, cameras, and GPS to navigate most limited-access highways in the U.S. and Canada. When activated on a road that is determined to be safe for use, drivers of the 2018 Cadillac CT6 Prestige will be able to take their hands off of the wheel, and the car will navigate the highway on its own – just like Tesla does. But, there’s a twist.

See, while Tesla’s AutoPilot system uses steering wheel feedback to determine if the driver is paying attention, GM took another big step towards the big-brother mindset. You won’t need to keep your hands on the wheel because the car will keep tabs on you via a small camera built into the top of the steering wheel. To be more specific, the camera system, which uses infrared light, will monitor the driver’s head position to determine when the driver is looking while the system is activated. This is what makes Super Cruise “more technologically advanced” than other systems currently available.

Should the system determine that the driver isn’t paying attention, it will issue a mild prompt to tell the driver to pay attention. If that doesn’t work, there are other visual alerts (light bar on the steering wheel and instrument cluster) and tactile alerts from the driver’s seat. If that doesn’t get your eyes back on the road, the CT6 will bring the car to a controlled stop and even contact OnStar so that it can alert first responders, if necessary.

Continue reading for the full story.

Why it matters

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So, here’s the deal. This system is a bit more advanced in the effect that it uses a camera to monitor the driver’s head position. But, it does leave one to wonder if it will notice someone sleeping with their head in the upright position. Either way, the system’s functionality will be limited to your basic interstates – you know, highways with dedicated on- and off-ramps. Apparently, that Lidar map data is top notch as well – If the PR talk from GM is to be believed. As the story goes, Engineers mapped every mile of highway in the U.S. and Canada in preparation for this system. That’s a pretty bold feat, to say the least, but the real question is: Are we really ready for autonomous technology to go hands-free and beyond?

Hands-Free, Semi-Autonomous Driving from... Cadillac?? High Resolution Interior
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Hands-Free, Semi-Autonomous Driving from... Cadillac?? High Resolution Interior
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The truth is, I’m not a fan of the technology in any way, shape, or form. All of this GPS technology and cameras makes it easy for you to be tracked by anyone who wishes to do so. On top of that, with internet connections being available on most new models, it’s only a matter of time before your vehicle can be shutdown, on the fly, for breaking even the smallest law. Not that I encourage speeding or driving erratically, but I’d prefer to control my car and the speed I decide to travel myself. I’m honestly more concerned about trusting self-driving systems designed by automakers who are constantly recalling vehicles for safety-related issues.

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But, what do you think? Is this a good move for Cadillac, or is it still too early? Am I concerned a little too much about big brother and/or letting the machine take over driving? Feed me your thoughts in the comments section below.

Press Release

The 2018 Cadillac CT6 will feature Super Cruise™, the industry’s first true hands-free driving technology for the highway. Unlike other driver assistance systems, Super Cruise™ utilizes two advanced technology systems — a driver attention system and precision LiDAR map data — to ensure safe and confident vehicle operation.

These systems are added to the network of cameras and radar sensors in the CT6, providing a more data-rich approach to driver assistance that is unique in the industry.

Super Cruise™ delivers comfort and convenience for long-distance travels and daily commutes. In addition, its hands-free capability and driver attention system help the driver safely complete common tasks in the car, such as using the navigation system, adjusting the audio system or taking a phone call.

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Super Cruise™ adds automatic lane-centering to CT6’s existing suite of driver assistance active safety technologies, enabling automatic control of speed and steering during highway driving. The system, which was designed to promote driver safety and convenience, will be available this fall.

“Super Cruise™ is a more technologically advanced hands-free driving solution, which in terms of capability, integration and validation is uniquely focused on customer convenience and safety,” said Johan de Nysschen, Cadillac president. “Cadillac’s philosophy is to elevate driving. Super Cruise™ enables safe, simple hands-free driving for the highway.”

Driver Attention System Enables Safe Operation
“When we were developing Super Cruise™ we knew it was important to keep the driver engaged during operation. That’s why we’ve added a driver attention function, to insist on driver supervision,” said Barry Walkup, chief engineer of Cadillac Super Cruise™.

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The driver attention system uses a small camera located on the top of the steering column that focuses exclusively on the driver and works with infrared lights to track head position to determine where the driver is looking whenever Super Cruise™ is in operation.

Existing driver assist systems only rely upon steering wheel input and warning messages to request driver attention and control. Cadillac is the only manufacturer to monitor driver attention to the road ahead when Super Cruise™ is engaged.

If the system detects the driver has turned attention away from the road ahead for too long, it will prompt the driver to return their attention to the road ahead. If the driver does not immediately refocus on the road, Super Cruise™ will continue to safely steer until a further escalation of alerts prompts the driver to resume supervision.

If the system determines continued inattentiveness, a steering wheel light bar guides the driver to look at the road or take back control of the wheel. Additional alerts can include visual indicators in the instrument cluster, tactile alerts in Cadillac’s Safety Alert Seat and audible alerts, if necessary. In the limited event of an unresponsive driver, the Cadillac CT6 utilizes the full capability of onboard driver assistance technologies to bring the car to a controlled stop and contact OnStar to alert first responders, if necessary.

Hands-Free, Semi-Autonomous Driving from... Cadillac?? High Resolution Interior
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Precision LiDAR Map Data
Super Cruise™ is the first assisted driving technology that will use precision LiDAR map data in addition to real-time cameras, sensors and GPS.

Data from on-board cameras, GPS and radar sensors is a key component of most assisted driving systems. The car uses the real-time data provided by the cameras and sensors to govern steering, braking and acceleration. Super Cruise™ adds to this formula using advanced laser technology in development for future autonomous vehicles: a LiDAR-scanned map database.

Combined with the real-time data from cameras and GPS sensors, the precision map governs system use, enabling it in only the areas where appropriate road conditions are detected. The combination of real-time data with precision mapping also improves vehicle control through curves and hills.

This advanced map data restrains Super Cruise™ use to divided, limited-access highways — highways with defined “on-” and “off-ramps.” This approach focuses Super Cruise™’s benefit on highway commutes, a large part of many consumers’ daily driving routines, as well as long-distance travels. It eliminates variables such as intersections and other less predictable potential hazards that can be prevalent on rural roads or city streets.

“The development of Super Cruise reflects a responsible and safety-oriented approach to the rollout of this advanced technology,” de Nysschen said.

The precision LiDAR map was developed specifically for Super Cruise™. Engineers mapped every mile of limited-access highway in the U.S. and Canada, providing detailed information to the car about the road ahead. This pairs with improved accuracy GPS, measuring real-time location in a fashion four to eight times more precise than traditional GPS.

“American drivers travel twice as many miles on urban and suburban highways as they do on rural roads,” Walkup said. “Super Cruise™ allows hands-free driving and operates only within the environment where it has the most benefit. 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.”

Super Cruise™ will be offered as an option on the 2018 Cadillac CT6 prestige sedan, starting this fall in the U.S. and Canadian markets.

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