Cadillac's Super Cruise system undergoing testing.Enlarge Photo
It’s been over four years since General Motors Company [NYSE:GM] first announced plans for a self-driving system for its Cadillac brand known as Super Cruise. At the time, GM said the system would be made available in the “near term.”
Super Cruise is now expected to debut on a Cadillac model in 2017 and on Monday Reuters reported on some of the features of the system after obtaining a copy of a letter submitted to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) by GM.
The initial version of Super Cruise will be more of a traffic jam assistant than a true self-driving system. It will be for use in heavy traffic or highway driving. The driver will be able to let go of the steering wheel for extended periods of time, but should the vehicle approach a series of turns or the driver fail to pay attention the system will issue a series of alerts. If the driver still fails to take control, Super Cruise will switch on the hazard lights and bring the vehicle to a complete stop in its lane or by the side of the road where possible.
A GM spokesman told Reuters that Super Cruise will use facial recognition software to detect whether a driver is paying attention. Some of the alerts, the spokesman said, would include a visual display, seat vibration and audible warnings. The final measure before the car is stopped is a call to OnStar.
Most self-driving systems on offer require the driver to frequently touch the steering wheel. Tesla [NSDQ:TSLA] was criticized for having a system, Autopilot, that didn’t require the driver to touch the wheel. Following the death in May of a driver whose Model S crashed into a truck’s trailer on a Florida highway while in Autopilot mode, Tesla made some updates including installing a feature to warn the driver more frequently should they fail to pay attention. Ignoring of repeated warnings will disengage Autopilot and prevent its use until the car is parked.