Super Cruise makes Cadillac one of the industry leaders when it comes to semiautonomous technology.
Launched in 2017 on the CT6, the company’s now-retired flagship sedan, it’s a true hands-free system that allows motorists to commute without touching the steering wheel or the pedals when the right conditions are met. Super Cruise isn’t as well known as Tesla’s Autopilot software because it has only been available on a single model since its release. Cadillac plans to offer it across most of its range in the coming years and is making significant updates to the system — including adding an automatic lane-changing function — ahead of the expansion.
Here’s everything you need to know about Super Cruise, including how it works, what it can do, and its limitations.
Cadillac built Super Cruise around a suite of cameras and radars that scope out the road ahead. They’re the same units used to power driving aids like lane-keeping assist and adaptive cruise control, but they’re complemented by extremely accurate lidar map data and an eye-tracking camera that detects whether the driver is paying attention. Bundled together, these features allow motorists to safely and legally take both hands off the steering wheel.
Engaging Super Cruise is a straightforward process. First, turn on adaptive cruise control using the button on the steering wheel. The system will then determine whether the car is traveling on a road that’s programmed into its system, check that it can clearly read the lane markings, and detect if the driver is paying attention. The steering wheel-shaped Super Cruise symbol appears in the digital instrument cluster when the system can be engaged.
Use a button on the steering wheel to turn it on, and wait for the curved light bar on the top part of the rim to turn green before taking your hands off the wheel. Intuitive color-coded graphics in the instrument cluster show information about the car and its surroundings, like the pre-set distance between it and the car ahead and the speed it’s cruising at.
Super Cruise communicates with users via the light bar. It flashes green to tell drivers “pay attention!” if the onboard camera detects they’re looking elsewhere (down at a smartphone or a tablet, notably), and it turns red if the driver doesn’t react in a timely manner. The car emits audible and visual warnings if the driver doesn’t take control of the car when asked to, and it’s programmed to slow down until it comes to a full stop if the warnings are ignored.
Motorists can only use Super Cruise if they’re traveling on a highway that Cadillac has mapped. The map above shows compatible roads in the United States. The green lines represent the original 130,000 miles of highways Cadillac mapped before launching the system in 2017, and the blue lines denote roads added since.
Keep in mind Super Cruise doesn’t turn a Cadillac into an autonomous car. While it’s a true hands-free system, the driver needs to pay attention to the road ahead and be ready to take over if something goes wrong. The company warns motorists to not use hands-free devices even if Super Cruise is engaged, and also points out that visibility, weather, and road conditions may affect how the system works. It also requires an OnStar plan and an active Wi-Fi hot spot, plus cell and GPS signals, so it’s not going to take you to a cabin in a remote part of the Wasatch mountain range.
As of 2020, Cadillac is the only brand that offers Super Cruise. The CT4 and the CT5 (pictured), launched to replace the ATS and the CTS, respectively, will inaugurate the next generation of the technology when they reach American showrooms during the second half of 2020. The feature will be available on the fifth-generation Escalade, too. Note that it’s an extra-cost option, and it’s not included in any of the aforementioned cars’ base prices.
Looking ahead, General Motors will make Super Cruise available in 22 vehicles by 2023. The company hasn’t detailed how it plans to roll it out yet, but President Mark Reuss revealed SUVs and full-size pickups will be available with the technology. “We’re rolling this out in a very big way,” he told investors during a presentation.
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