Cadillac road tests self-driving Super Cruise tech, could hit highways by mid-decade

If the standard options on the Cadillac XTS or ATS sedan just aren't enough to get you to pull the trigger, perhaps this will. GM and some fellow researchers are road testing Super Cruise self-driving technology in hopes of making those grueling road trips a bit easier on the ol' chauffeur. Capable of auto steering, braking and lane centering on the open road "under certain optimal conditions," the system is meant for highway use in both free-flowing and bumper-to-bumper traffic. Super Cruise implements a mixture of radar, ultrasonic sensors, cameras and GPS info. However, when "reliable data" can't be gathered by the system, you'll have no choice but to take the wheel yourself. Although the basics of the new tech have already been implemented on the 2013 Cadillac XTS and ATS autos as a piece of the Driver Assist Package, the full rollout could happen by the middle of the decade. For a look at Super Cruise in action, hit the video just past the break.

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Self-Driving Car in Cadillac's Future
'Super cruise' technology could be ready by mid-decade
2012-04-20

DETROIT – Cadillac is road testing a semi-autonomous technology it calls "Super Cruise" that is capable of fully automatic steering, braking and lane-centering in highway driving under certain optimal conditions. The system could be ready for production vehicles by mid-decade.

Super Cruise is designed to ease the driver's workload on the freeway, in both bumper-to-bumper traffic and on long road trips by relying on a fusion of radar, ultrasonic sensors, cameras and GPS map data.

"Super Cruise has the potential to improve driver performance and enjoyment," said Don Butler, vice president of Cadillac marketing. "Our goal with advanced technologies, like this and our CUE system, is to lead in delivering an intuitive user experience."

Many of the building block technologies for Super Cruise are already available on the all-new 2013 Cadillac XTS and ATS luxury sedans, as part of the available Driver Assist Package. It is the first Cadillac system to use sensor fusion to provide 360 degrees of crash risk detection and enhanced driver assist features, including:

Rear Automatic Braking
Full-Speed Range Adaptive Cruise Control
Intelligent Brake Assist
Forward Collision Alert
Safety Alert Seat
Automatic Collision Preparation
Lane Departure Warning
Side Blind Zone Alert
Rear Cross Traffic Alert
Adaptive Forward Lighting
Rear Vision Camera With Dynamic Guidelines
Head Up Display
The key to delivering semi-autonomous capability will be the integration of lane- centering technology that relies on forward-looking cameras to detect lane markings and GPS map data to detect curves and other road characteristics, said John Capp, General Motors director of Global Active Safety Electronics and Innovation.

Even when semi-autonomous driving capability is available on vehicles, the system will have operational limitations based on external factors such as weather and visibility of lane markings. When reliable data is unavailable, the driver will need to steer.

GM and its research partners recently conducted a study funded by the Federal Highway Administration on human factors in semi-autonomous vehicle operation. When asked, some study participants expressed strong interest in having a vehicle that could drive itself, particularly for long trips when lane centering and full-speed range adaptive cruise control could help lighten the driver's workload.

"The primary goal of GM's autonomous and semi-autonomous vehicle development is safety," Capp said. "In the coming years, autonomous driving systems paired with advanced safety systems could help eliminate the crash altogether by interceding on behalf of drivers before they're even aware of a hazardous situation. More than ever, consumers will be able to trust their car to do the right thing."

Engadget Podcast 290 - 04.20.2012