General Motors intends to start offering its hands-free driving system, Super Cruise, across the entire Cadillac lineup by 2020. The technology, already available on the CT6, allows motorists to take a semi-passive role on the highway. Once GM’s luxury brand is sorted, the system will become available on other makes.
If you like the idea of a car that can take you out of the commute a bit and don’t mind the idea of a small camera permanently pointed directly at your face, then this is probably very exciting news.
While Super Cruise is frequently compared to Tesla’s Autopilot, the two operate differently. General Motors’ system does indeed allow for a similar hands-free experience, but the onboard camera tracks the driver’s eyes to ensure they remain relatively attentive to the road ahead. Meanwhile, Autopilot allows drivers to ignore almost everything so long as they’re willing to regain control of the vehicle when asked. The difference between the two is that the onus of safety remains slightly more with the driver with Super Cruise.
We’ll take this opportunity to remind all drivers that safety is always their responsibility and not that of the car — no matter how much advanced driving aids and automotive marketing attempts to blur that line. Autopilot can and has been misused and, even though it forces you to keep your head in the game a little more, Super Cruise is not a replacement for safe driving. As miraculous and sensational as this technology is, it dulls the senses and affects your ability to respond quickly.
Now that the public service announcement is out of the way, let’s look at what else General Motors is cooking up.
According to The Detroit News, the company’s V2X (vehicle to everything) system will be close behind the widespread rollout of semi-autonomous driving functions. “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.”
Over the past few years, General Motors dove into connectivity like a fat kid into a bag of chips. While V2X has long been heralded as the next step to achieving true vehicular autonomy, it has other uses. For one, it perpetually and accurately monitors exactly where your vehicle is and what it’s doing. That information can then be sent to other self-driving cars and, assuming the infrastructure evolves, things like street lights or police departments. But GM also has a vested interest in what your car is doing for data acquisition and marketing purposes. The automaker makes no bones about its long-term strategy, which includes the prospect of targeted advertisements and the selling of your personal data to third parties.
Exactly how GM intends to do this isn’t entirely clear. It could presumably gather much of this information from OnStar, and it’s already promoting partnered brands via its in-car Marketplace app. Whether or not it needs V2X to go the extra mile is unknown. In fact, we’re not even sure what version of V2X the company intends to use.
It initially supported the use of dedicated short-range communications (DSCR) to “speak” with other similarly equipped cars in the immediate area. The technology was broadly endorsed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration as the standard for all vehicle-to-vehicle comms, but things have changed in the last two years. Now, automakers and suppliers are leaning toward a more-affordable cellular solution that’s easier to integrate with existing infrastructure. There are other advantages, too — like linking it to all cell phones in the surrounding area to help autonomous cars avoid pedestrian crashes, for example.
However, this brings up a myriad of questions. Will companies like General Motors allow customers to easily opt out of all of this data transferring? How is the government going to regulate this? Is your personal information safe? What safety protocols will be in place after automakers automatically say yes without being able to prove this? How long till conspiracy theorists claim this is part of the New World Order’s plot to control us all like digital slaves? Are they right?
A lot of work is already going into answering these questions; we’ll be looking into it as the technology begins to manifest in earnest. For General Motors, the automaker claims the first V2X equipped vehicle will be a high-volume Cadillac crossover. The specifications of that hardware is, as of yet, undecided. We’re banking on the cellular V2X system though and not DSRC. While Toyota is running with DSRC for 2021, Ford has promised to adopt it for future builds and the Chinese government seems intent on making it the preferred hardware for the region. GM sells far too many vehicles there to go against the grain.
[Image: General Motors]