Feb 15, 2024 - Technology

GM adds hands-free driving on rural roads

Image looking over the shoulder of a woman using Cadillac's hands-free SuperCruise technology.

GM's Super Cruise technology lets drivers go hands-off on pre-mapped roads. Photo courtesy of GM

Motorists using General Motors' Super Cruise driver-assistance technology can now go hands-free on more back roads across rural America.

Why it matters: The Super Cruise expansion comes amid pressing questions about the safety of self-driving cars following a series of high-profile incidents, including one in San Francisco that forced GM to ground its fleet of Cruise robotaxis.

Driving the news: The update nearly doubles Super Cruise's operating area by adding minor highways that connect smaller cities and rural towns nationwide.

  • What began in 2017 as hands-free driving capability on interstates is now available on up to 750,000 miles of roadways across the U.S. and Canada.
  • Super Cruise offers the largest hands-free operating zone in North America, GM says, with nearly six times the coverage of rival technologies.

What they're saying: GM believes the expanded operating zone will especially appeal to vacationers who tow a boat or camper, as Super Cruise is the only assisted-driving system with trailering capability.

  • "We're adding roadways to get you to adventurous places and smaller towns," GM's technical mapping specialist Dave Craig tells Axios.

How it works: GM uses high-precision lidar technology to map roadways in the Super Cruise network.

  • Even if the lines on a rural roadway are faded, Super Cruise-equipped vehicles understand the road and stay in their lane.
  • It's a "hands-off, eyes-on" system that requires drivers to pay attention at all times. Various signals and lights alert users when they need to resume control.

The intrigue: Even after the Cruise robotaxi debacle, GM says it remains committed to autonomous vehicle technology — but it's unclear whether GM is still planning to offer "personal autonomous vehicles," as CEO Mary Barra once promised.

  • The company quietly stopped working on its next-generation driver-assistance system, Ultra Cruise (which was being designed to allow for hands-free driving on nearly all streets), in favor of expanding Super Cruise's capabilities.
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