Super Cruise expanding across Cadillac lineup, other GM brands

Nora Naughton
The Detroit News
Cadillac is expanding its Super Cruise hands-free driver assistance feature across its entire lineup of vehicles, the company announced Wednesday.

General Motors Co. is expanding the use of its high-tech Super Cruise system — which allows drivers to ride hands-free on the highway in a Cadillac CT6 — to the brand's entire lineup starting in 2020 and later to other GM brands.

Super Cruise is "a feature that customers routinely come into dealerships asking about, shopping for, and specifically ordering," Mark Reuss, GM's product development chief, said in a prepared speech Wednesday to the Intelligent Transportation Society of America conference in Detroit. "Making it available in every Cadillac on the showroom floor just makes sense."

Cadillac is also rolling out V2X communication technology in a "high volume crossover" by 2023. Cadillac just revealed its first-ever compact SUV, the XT4, at the New York auto show in March.

V2X is an industry term for "vehicle to everything" communication. It's thought to be the next step in automotive safety systems, allowing a car to communicate with everything from infrastructure to the smart phone in a pedestrian's pocket.

It's a popular space for innovation at the moment. Germany's Robert Bosch GmbH demonstrated its own V2X system at the intersection of Jefferson and Griswold in Detroit Tuesday.

“Cadillac is proud to be the leader for the company’s innovation,” Steve Carlisle, Cadillac's new president, said in a statement. “Groundbreaking technologies like these continue to provide unparalleled comfort and convenience for our customers.”

Super Cruise debuted on the 2018 Cadillac CT6. The system is designed to fight Tesla Inc.'s Auto Pilot system, making GM's technology the first driver assist system to use precision LiDAR map data and real-time cameras, sensors and GPS to guide the vehicle. 

Automakers and analysts say demand for the driver-assist and automated safety features, such as Cadillac’s Super Cruise, is growing.

The system is also more conservative than Tesla's, using facial recognition to monitor the driver's attentiveness. If a driver is completely unresponsive, the CT6 will come to a controlled stop and OnStar will alert rescue personnel. Super Cruise requires an active OnStar service plan with emergency services.

"Think it was inevitable this was going to happen, but I'm not entirely convinced any of these systems are a great idea for consumers," said Sam Abuelsamid, an automotive analyst for Navigant Research. "But Super Cruise works more reliably than other systems out there today, although it is still limited in its capabilities. GM’s approach is the best one out there. They just need to expand capability, which I believe they will."

The system only activates on a divided highway. The Super Cruise system can navigate 130,000 miles of freeway in the U.S. and Canada, GM said in a statement.

The launch of Super Cruise was also an early signal that GM was heading to the front of the self-driving car race. The Detroit automaker and its self-driving arm, GM Cruise, are hoping to be among the first to deploy a driverless taxi service for the masses in a yet-to-be-named city next year.

GM Cruise has been developing self-driving Chevrolet Bolts, now known as Cruise AVs, in San Francisco since 2016. GM debuted its production-ready Cruise AV without a steering wheel or pedals ahead of the Detroit auto show in January.

That piece of GM's business has become so valuable it caught the attention of one of the largest investors in autonomous technology: Japan's SoftBank Investment Advisers. The firm invested $2.25 billion in GM Cruise last week, giving the automaker access to an expanded network of mobility and technology companies — and yet another a leg up in the self-driving race.  

In a note, Adam Jonas of Morgan Stanley raised his valuation of GM's autonomous operations from $2 billion to $9.25 billion following the SoftBank investment. "For perspective," he wrote, "we now value GM Cruise at a net valuation to GM shareholders slightly higher than the value of Cadillac."