Aug 4, 2022 - Technology

GM's hands-free driving tech is set for a massive expansion

A woman driving hands-free in a Cadillac Escalade

A Cadillac Escalade equipped with GM's hands-free Super Cruise technology. Photo courtesy of GM

General Motors' hands-free driving tech will soon work on many more North American roadways.

Why it matters: No one can buy a self-driving car yet — not even from Tesla, which falsely markets its partially automated, assisted-driving beta feature as "full self-driving."

  • But as cars come equipped with ever more capable assisted-driving systems, consumers will have the chance to try out — and potentially learn to trust — vehicle automation.

The latest: Starting later this year, GM's hands-free driving system, Super Cruise, will be available on 400,000 miles of roads in the U.S. and Canada, the company says. That's double its current operating area, and more than triple the coverage for Ford's similar BlueCruise feature.

  • Currently limited to 200,000 miles of interstates and divided highways, Super Cruise will soon expand to more state and federal non-divided roads, including iconic roads like Route 66 and the Pacific Coast Highway.
  • Super Cruise, which debuted in 2017 on the Cadillac CT6, will be available on 22 Cadillac, Chevrolet, GMC and Buick models by the end of 2023.

How it works: When engaged, Super Cruise allows drivers to keep their hands on their lap and their feet off the pedals.

  • The system controls acceleration and braking to maintain the desired gap from the vehicle ahead, and steers to stay within the lane markings.
  • In the latest version, Super Cruise can also change lanes to pass slower traffic.
  • An infrared camera on the steering column monitors the drivers to ensure they are paying attention.

The big picture: The expansion of Super Cruise’s capabilities comes as U.S. regulators are scrutinizing driver-assist features more closely.

  • The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is investigating Tesla amid a series of fatal accidents.
  • And safety advocates like Consumer Reports are calling for more transparency, arguing that driver-assist technology can lead to complacency behind the wheel.

What they're saying: In a blog post shared in advance with Axios, GM President Mark Reuss stressed the company's safety culture as it rolls out more advanced autonomy.

  • "You may have read some recent headlines that might cause some to question if these technologies are ready for primetime," he writes, citing a Pew Research Center Survey that says people don't trust autonomous vehicles.
  • "Because safety is our focus, we’re investing significant time and resources to help ensure our features work safely before we go to market with these technologies."

What to watch: GM says it is on track to deliver the first autonomous vehicle for personal use "by mid-decade."

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