General Motors’ Super Cruise is widely recognized to be the best of the so-called “Level 2+” driver assists. It combines adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping with a geofence—so it only operates on divided-lane highways—plus an infrared driver monitoring system that only allows for hands-free operation when it knows the person behind the wheel has their eyes on the road ahead. On Tuesday morning, Cadillac announced that it’s rolling out an enhanced version this year that includes the ability to change lanes on demand.
“This is our most extensive update we’ve made to Super Cruise since its debut,” said Mario Maiorana, Super Cruise chief engineer. “We have made a number of improvements to make Super Cruise more intuitive, better performing and more accessible for our customers. In addition to the automated lane change functionality, we’ve made improvements to the user interface and hands-free driving dynamics.”
Currently, if you’re Super Cruising along one of the 200,000 miles (321,868km) of lidar-mapped highways in a Cadillac CT6 and you want to change lanes, it’s all down to you to execute the maneuver. You check there’s a gap, indicate (please remember to use your turn signal), and as you begin applying torque to the wheel the system temporarily disengages, giving you full control. You know you’re in charge because the strip of LEDs in the steering wheel go from green to blue. Once you’re traveling straight and true again, the system can re-engage, the LEDs turn green, and you can go back to vogueing, doing ‘big fish little fish cardboard box,” or even jazz hands, while all around you everyone else has to keep their mitts on the rim.
With the updated Super Cruise, you can now just use the turn signal, which will tell the car to start scanning that lane to see if there’s an appropriate gap. If there is, the car will move over. (Using the turn signal also obviously activates the relevant lights on that side of the car.)
“In order to add automated lane change and provide our customers with the same level of confidence that they currently have in Super Cruise, we made improvements to both our software and hardware,” said Maiorana. “This included improving rear-facing sensors and advanced software algorithms so that the system can confidently track vehicles approaching from the rear. As a result of these improvements, we are able to ensure that Super Cruise will hold in its current lane and only change when a sufficient gap exists.”
Other tweaks include some changes to the UI, better steering control software, and better HD map information that should mean the system can now remain engaged on highway interchanges.
There is a catch, though. This update will only be available on the 2021 Cadillac CT4, CT5, and Escalade, all of which arrive in the second half of this year. It doesn’t appear as if the update can be applied to existing Super Cruise vehicles, although right now that list comprises the Cadillac CT6 sedan… and nothing else. GM’s roll-out of Super Cruise feels maddeningly slow to me; if I was an executive in the RenCen I’d make it standard or optional on as many GM vehicles as possible to drive down the cost of parts. But I’m not—something that probably comes as a great relief to both GM and me—and anyway most GM vehicles don’t have the right digital architecture to make all this work.