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The Safer Self-Driving Car: GM Super Cruise

Here’s why we’re so high on GM Super Cruise

August 02 2021

Americans love when something can be made easier for them. It’s why we have things like “one click checkout” and why we buy books that summarize other books. It’s also why everybody here is enamored by self-driving systems like Tesla Autopilot. Simply hit a button and your car will drive you into…an immovable object.

You have to realize cars with Level 2 autonomous features (the current class of self-driving cars on the market) are not designed to drive you around like a robot chauffeur. Their failsafe features are limited to steering wheel pressure sensors that are designed to override the system if the car's computer makes a bad decision, and according to Consumer Reports, can be defeated by a role of duct tape. The vehicle's computer relies on cameras and radar sensors, along with data collected from other drivers that have traveled down the same road (in Tesla’s case), in order to make movement decisions,. These driver assistance features are only meant to assist the driver by handling mundane steering, acceleration and braking functions in ordinary situations.

As of 2021, no retail customer anywhere in the world can purchase a Level 4 (the vehicle can literally drive itself) self-driving car. So expecting your Level 2 Tesla Model 3 to drive you to the comic book store all by itself is just suicide with extra steps. You can however, still enjoy near autonomous driving features, if you use them correctly. And one of the more sorted autonomous driving options is the GM/Cadillac Super Cruise system.

A Cadillac CT6 Interior equipped with GM Super Cruise
A Cadillac CT6 Interior equipped with GM Super Cruise: Cadillac

Years ago, vehicle control systems like the steering and gas pedal were mechanically connected to the vehicle via cables and rods. On modern vehicles however, there is an electronic separation between the driver and the vehicle. This means that driver controls like the steering wheel and pedals are connected to pressure sensors and angle sensors, which allows the vehicle’s computer to maintain a level of control over its operation. Features like adaptive cruise control and Lane Keep Assist are able to execute minor steering corrections, throttle inputs, and brake based on what the sensors are telling the computer. So if you’re cruising along at 70 mph and the car in front of you suddenly slows down, the adaptive cruise control system can activate the brakes and deactivate the throttle so that you don't get into a wreck.

The GM Super Cruise system utilizes these vehicle driving control systems, but takes it to another level by adding preprogrammed road mapping and facial recognition software to make sure that you're paying attention to the act of driving. Since this is a Level II autonomous system, the vehicle is programmed to require your attention. So, if you're busy Tweeting, the Cadillac Super Cruise system will know, and vibrate your seat to get your attention. If you're still typing and you ignore the flashing red light on the steering wheel, an alarm will blare over the sound system like you’re running fallout drills. If you ignore the noise and still keep typing, your car will automatically come to a complete stop with the hazards on, and signal to OnStar that there is an emergency.

Right now semi autonomous cars are still in their infancy. However, GM Super Cruise could be the signal that we’re entering the toddler stage. What makes it so different is that the car doesn't just react to what the sensors and cameras are telling it. It's already preprogrammed to know where it should be in any lane of a pre-mapped road. Super Cruise also does a much better job of making sure the driver is actually paying attention to the road, thanks to the state-of-the-art infrared eye tracking camera system and software. 

Does this mean your dream of being chauffeured around by a robot will be realized any time soon? Probably not. But if other companies take some cues from GM, then the future could be happening sooner than you think.



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