GM Super Cruise: How the hands-off driving technology works

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An advanced driver-assistance technology from GM called Super Cruise allows drivers of its Cadillac CT6 to reduce the fatigue of long-distance travel with a hands-off-on-the-highway system.

In development for more than five years, it relies on a fusion of radar, ultrasonic sensors, cameras and GPS, as well as two important additions that set the system apart from other Level 2 technologies – lidar map data and an innovative head tracking Driver Attention System (DAS) to ensure drivers are looking at the road ahead.

GM Super Cruise

GM Super Cruise on the road

GM Super Cruise technology
The system uses a combination of sensors, cameras, GPS, and lidar maps to allow drivers to take their hands off the wheel on pre-mapped roads in the USA and Canada. A forward-looking, long-range radar monitors the path ahead and four short-range corner radars keep an eye on traffic cutting in, just like regular ACC. In times when drivers need to take over, a steering-wheel light bar and seat vibrations indicate three staged warnings of non-compliance, culminating in Super Cruise shutting off if the driver doesn’t take control.

GM Super Cruise

Blue light bar means driver has taken control

Its DAS consists of three infrared emitters on the steering wheel and a small IR camera on the column that watches the driver’s face and triggers alerts in the event of persistent inattention. Should a driver be unable – or refuse – to take control, the car will automatically brake to a standstill.

Mapping mission
To create the lidar map data, GM worked with Ushr, a Detroit-based mapping company, which logged 130,000 miles (210,000km) of high-definition 3D maps in the USA and Canada. Currently, the Super Cruise system cannot be engaged unless it’s being driven on one of these pre-mapped routes.

It took Ushr three years to develop the production HD map software. Similar mapping projects will be required ahead of expansion into other markets. LiDAR maps are stored on two identical hard-drive partitions in the rear of the CT6. The map data is refreshed every three months via OnStar over-the-air updates, while the car checks for urgent updates every six hours.

Super Cruise is currently found only in the Cadillac CT6 with plans for it to be in all North American Cadillacs by 2020.

by Graham Heeps

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