General Motors are doing some interesting things with their Super Cruise technology. This advanced driver assistance system, or ADAS for short, offers driver’s the ability to take their hands off the wheel when driving on the freeway.
GM’s Super Cruise is probably the closest thing we have to Tesla’s FSD, however, the two systems vary in significant ways. Super Cruise uses a driver monitoring camera to ensure the driver is paying attention to the road, moving past the requirement to have your hands on the wheel to input to the vehicle as a sign that you’re paying attention to oncoming hazards.
The control of the vehicle is done using a combination of lidar, radar and sensors, varying considerably from Tesla’s computer-vision and camera-based solution.
While Tesla included a camera inside the Model 3, it remains disabled, and is not used for driver monitoring. This means in this specific way, Super Cruise feels ahead of where Autopilot and FSD is at.
In reality, use of GM’s Super Cruise is restricted to use on freeways and is likely to remain that way. Tesla’s technology approach is to look at the world and learn, watch, monitor and improve for all types of driving.
Staying in the center of the lane, even around bends is fairly straight forward, but as vehicle users, we need vehicles to do much more than this. The system needs to evolve to support all use cases, both city and freeway driving, parking, navigating complex intersections and accommodating for the random unexpected things that happen on our roads.
It’s in this light that we can really appreciate that Tesla’s technology approach has the capacity to improve over time, learning off the large volume of data fed back from the fleet of vehicles, over that in-built cellular connection.
So while it’s great to see the announcement from GM that they’re rolling out Super Cruise to 22 of their vehicles by 2023, you have to understand what you’re buying into. That is a system that does great on freeways, but will not have the capacity to evolve into a fully autonomous vehicle over time.
From the Cadillac website under the Driving Consideration section, it says:
Make sure that:
- The vehicle is on a compatible highway
- Lane markings are clearly visible (lane markings may be obscured, for example, by glare or poor weather conditions)
- Camera or radar sensors are not covered, obstructed, or damaged
- The Driver Attention Camera system detects that the driver appears attentive
In the US at least, there’s over 200,000 miles of compatible highways, but internationally the system is not available, unlike Tesla who ships cars all over the world and in almost every market Autopilot and FSD is available.
Under the section titled ‘When not to use Super Cruise’ it lists: These are some of the situations when Super Cruise should not be activated.
- When you’re not on a compatible highway separated from opposing traffic
- During difficult or uncertain driving conditions
- When lane markings are poor or visibility is limited
- In a tunnel or construction zones
- In slippery or other adverse conditions, including rain, sleet, fog, ice, or snow
- On a road shoulder or service drive
- When towing a trailer
- Super Cruise is not designed to operate in a freeway or highway exit lane
It’s also important to understand the limitations of Super Cruise. Under the FAQ section, it answers the question – Will Super Cruise change lanes for me?
The answer is: No. Super Cruise does not change lanes for you. The system is designed to maintain the current lane. You need to take control to change lanes, steer around a traffic situation or object, merge into traffic, exit the highway, make a turn, or stop for crossing traffic or a traffic light, stop sign or other traffic control device. Super Cruise does not steer to avoid construction zones.
In the manual for Cadillac, under the heading ‘Using super cruise responsibly‘, we find this: Some state and local laws may not permit hands-free driving. In these locations, use Super Cruise by lightly holding the steering wheel at all times.
It goes on to say, Super Cruise is available on additional roads for the 2020 model year, including areas of divided highways that have limited crossings. Under certain conditions, such as when approaching an intersection, Super Cruise uses the high precision map to hand control of the vehicle back to you.
There’s another important piece of information in the manual. Super Cruise map updates are automatically downloaded via the vehicle’s 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot. The Wi-Fi option should always be turned on. Super Cruise will be disabled if the map reaches 7 months old.
So if you’re considering buying one of the 22 cars that will have Super Cruise, just understand, you’re not buying the same as what Tesla offers.
More info at Jalopnik.