Cadillac Announces Availability of Super Cruise Autonomous Driving System

Cadillac announced that it will begin offering the Super Cruise technology that they have worked on for a few years.  It will reach the market as an option on the 2018 CT6 Prestige.  This technology is promoted as being the first true hands-free driving technology for the highway.  Some might question this assertion given all the press given to Tesla’s Autopilot and other self-driving systems in Mercedes, BMW, and even Infiniti – but given that Tesla terms their technology as a ‘beta’ and other luxury makers need hands on the wheel (taking your hands away will cancel other self-driving systems) – the fully hands-off auto driving is truly new.

In order to maintain a minimum level of driver engagement, Cadillac has added a monitoring system that watches to confirm that the driver is heads-up and looking at the road ahead.  This is to ensure that the driver is available to take over if the route takes the car off of a well mapped road or if the technology gets confused.

If the driver’s attention is away from the road for too long, the system will engage multiple visual alerts, the Safety Alert Seat, and audio alerts to get the driver to re-engage.  If, after all of these techniques have failed, the car is able to bring itself to a controlled halt and contact OnStar (the assumption being that the driver needs medical attention at that point).

Interestingly, Cadillac’s system relies not only on intelligent cruise sensors, GPS, and camera technology.  GM has added an on-board LiDAR system that, with a detailed LiDAR map of all limited use highways in the US and Canada – provides a level of safety and predictability missing in other systems.  Because of the LiDAR map requirement of your route, Super Cruise is only able to be activated on these limited access highways (divided highways with well-defined on and off-ramps).  However, this does suggest that future maps could increase the environments where Super Cruise can be used.

Here is a short video from Cadillac describing the system:

…and, if that isn’t enough, read on for Cadillac’s press release about the 2018 CT6 and it’s Super Cruise option.

NEW YORK — 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.

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™.

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.

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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