Tesla may call its system “Autopilot,” but Cadillac claims its new “Super Cruise” is the first to allow truly hands-free driving. Is it a step toward autonomous driving, or will Cadillac face the same controversy Tesla has with Autopilot?
Cadillac has discussed Super Cruise for several years, but it’s debuting just now on the 2018 CT6 sedan. It uses an array of sensors to allow the car to autonomously maintain a set speed and keep it centered in its lane on highways. That sounds a lot like Autopilot, but Super Cruise differs from the Tesla system in several key ways.
For starters, Super Cruise uses lidar, in addition to radar and cameras. Lidar works like radar, but uses light waves instead of radio waves. It’s considered essential to the development of self-driving cars by most companies, but not Tesla. CEO Elon Musk has insisted that Autopilot, and systems offering a greater degree of autonomy, can rely on radar and cameras only.
Both Super Cruise and Autopilot are designed for use on highways only, but Cadillac actually ensures its system can’t be used anywhere else. Super Cruise compares camera scans and GPS data to a map database, and won’t activate unless conditions are right. Cadillac says the availability of map data also improves system responsiveness on curves and hills.
Super Cruise also includes a driver-attention monitor to ensure the driver isn’t, say, taking a nap behind the wheel. It uses a camera mounted at the top of the steering column to track head position. If the system determines the driver is looking away from the road, it will start a series of prompts, including visual and audio alerts, and vibrating the CT6’s Safety Alert Seat. If the driver is determined to be unresponsive, the system can bring the car to a controlled stop in certain conditions and send for help via OnStar, according to Cadillac.
Super Cruise launches this fall as an option on the 2018 CT6. Pricing for the system will be announced closer to the launch date.