Journalists Take 500 Mile Hands-Free Drive in the Cadillac CT6

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【Summary】The Super Cruise system, found in the Cadillac CT6, provides real-world autonomous driving.

Mia Bevacqua    Nov 22, 2017 7:12 AM PT

Cadillac has a long history of innovation. In 1903, the company introduced the Model A, an advanced automobile with a modern overhead valve engine. Then in 1915, the first regular production V8 engine. The list goes on and on, so it comes as no surprise Cadillac is at the forefront of self-driving vehicle technology. 

Super Cruise is the semiautonomous driving system found in the Cadillac CT6. The system has an SAE level 2 autonomy rating, since it requires a human pilot (or copilot, really). The sub-systems that give the CT6 its abilities include adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning and lane centering assist. Radar and cameras provide input to the system.

500 mile hands-free test drive

Super Cruise was initially slated for release in 2016, but GM pushed it back. GM engineers were scared straight after a traffic fatality involving Tesla's similar, Autopilot system. As a result, the General decided to do more safety testing before releasing Super Cruise. 

Recently, Cadillac hosted a coast-to-coast drive of the CT6 for journalist and celebrities. During the drive, they got to test out the Super Cruise system. Hands-frees driving, however, was relegated to limited access highways that had been mapped out in advance. 

Enabling the Super Cruise system involves pushing a series of buttons. It typically takes a couple of seconds for the vehicle to become ready and confirm readiness with steering wheel-mounted LEDs. 

Once the system is engaged, the CT6 can steer itself along the highway at speeds up to 80 mph. At least that's GM's official number – a few journalists claim to have seen 90 mph during the test drive. While not all of the driving can be done hands free, a good portion can be. 


But you can't take a nap behind the wheel of the CT6 – yet. The Super Cruise system is equipped with an attention monitor to make sure the driver is engaged at all times. To do this, it uses infrared emitters embedded in the steering wheel to project light onto the driver's face. A small camera on the steering wheel captures this light and uses it to monitor the position of the driver's head face and eyes. 

Should you nod off – or get distracted by a cat meme a friend sends you – Super Cruise deploys a rapid series of warning. To start, the light bar on the steering wheel begins flashing, the haptic seat buzzes and audible chimes are played. If you don't respond, the warnings escalate and become more frequent (and obnoxious). 

If the driver doesn't come to, Super Cruise slows the car to a stop. The system then calls OnStar for help and first responders are deployed as needed. Cycling the ignition is the only way to restart the Super Cruise system after a stop. 

Sure, there are things Super Cruise can't do yet. It can't switch lanes, or deal with a bozo that cuts you off. It also can't move sideways while staying in the same lane. Still, Super Cruise's ability is second only to similar systems produced by Tesla. 

Super Cruise headed to dealership showrooms

An expert from the Society of Automotive Engineers estimates Super Cruise will cost GM about $400 per car to build. Cadillac will offer it as a $5,000 option on the CT6, making it very profitable. But until you can peruse social media, or catch a few z's while driving, the system may not appeal to consumers. 

Sources: Motor Magazine and SAE  

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