GM Super Cruise: Semi-autonomous freeway driving tech will be safe, offered in 2017 Cadillac models


Self-driving cars may be a little too anxiety-inducing, but drivers may be happier to accept semi-automated cars that allow the driver to take over. That is what General Motors thinks as it announces its plan to roll out a new vehicle equipped with driver assist technology that allows the car to drive itself in semi-autopilot mode.

In a speech delivered at Detroit's Intelligent Transport System World Congress, GM chief executive Mary Barra said the world's largest automaker will roll out an unspecified Cadillac model in 2017 equipped with Super Cruise. The new "hands-free" driving technology, which works on the freeway and in congested traffic, allows drivers to let the car take over, keep the car in its lane, adjust the steering wheel and trigger brake controls when necessary.

"With Super Cruise, when there's a congestion alert on roads like California's Santa Monica Freeway, you can let the car take over and drive hands free and feet free through the worst stop-and-go traffic," says Barra. "If the mood strikes you on the high-speed road from Barstow, California, to Las Vegas, you can take a break from the wheel and pedals and let the car do the work."

Around the same time, GM also hopes to introduce vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) car sensing technology, which will allow cars to communicate with one another to reduce accidents and improve the flow of traffic. The new feature will become a standard in the 2017 Cadillac CTS sedan expected to roll out in the second half of 2016.

GM says it is taking a giant leap forward by introducing V2V communications, noting that vehicles that can communicate with one another are a chicken-and-egg technology. The first cars that will be equipped with V2V will be very lonely in terms of identifying other cars to communicate with, since other car manufacturers will also have to take the leap and incorporate V2V into their vehicles for drivers on the road to take full advantage of the new technology.

"There's no way to take all the cars off the road, and put all new ones out and they're all talking to others," says John Capp, director of global vehicle safety at GM. "In the beginning, you won't get a lot of warnings. This is about safety, and somebody's got to start first."

GM is also working with Ford Motors and the Transportation Research Institute at the University of Michigan to build a 120-mile smart highway system in Detroit. The intelligent highway will have cameras and sensors deployed all over the city's busiest roads to allow the highway to communicate with cars and provide alerts about hazards, traffic and other driving conditions.

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