GM to offer Canadians self-driving tech on '18 Cadillac CT6

DETROIT -- General Motors plans to start offering self-driving technology to Canadian consumers this fall, with the debut of the 2018 Cadillac CT6 sedan.

The 2018 CT6 will be the first vehicle available with a function GM calls Super Cruise, which combines lane-centering with other driver-assistance features to enable autonomous driving on limited-access expressways, the automaker said in a U.S. statement Monday.

GM, playing down the capability of Tesla Inc.’s controversial Autopilot software, called Super Cruise “the industry’s first true hands-free driving technology for the highway.”

GM said Super Cruise uses two systems that Tesla doesn’t -- driver attention monitoring and precision lidar map data -- “to ensure safe and confident vehicle operation.”

“Super Cruise is a more technologically advanced hands-free driving solution, which in terms of capability, integration and validation is uniquely focused on customer convenience and safety,” Cadillac President Johan de Nysschen said in the statement on Cadillac's U.S. website. “Cadillac’s philosophy is to elevate driving. Super Cruise enables safe, simple hands-free driving for the highway.”

Super Cruise uses a small camera on top of the steering column and infrared lights to track the driver’s head position. If the system determines that the driver has looked away from the road for too long, it will initiate a series of escalating visual, tactile and audible alerts until the driver resumes watching the road. If the driver continues to be unresponsive, the car can bring itself to a controlled stop and use OnStar to contact first responders.

GM said Super Cruise can be activated only on divided highways with onramps and no potential for cross traffic. It said engineers used lidar to map every mile of limited-access highway in the U.S. and Canada, allowing the car to pinpoint its location four to eight times more precisely than traditional GPS.

“American drivers travel twice as many miles on urban and suburban highways as they do on rural roads,” said Barry Walkup, the chief engineer of Super Cruise. “Super Cruise allows hands-free driving and operates only within the environment where it has the most benefit. While it is technically possible for the technology to drive hands-free on other kinds of streets and roads, we feel strongly that this targeted approach is the best to build consumer and regulatory confidence and enthusiasm for advanced mobility.”

GM is taking a more measured approach in rolling out Super Cruise than Tesla has with Autopilot, which already is included on every vehicle it sells and has no limitations on the types of roads where it can be used. Tesla cautions drivers to continue paying attention when activating Autopilot, but numerous videos posted online show drivers ignoring that advice, in some cases resulting in crashes.

One Tesla Model S owner died last year when a tractor-trailer turned in front of his car in Florida.

The Super Cruise announcement, coincidentally, came on the same day that Tesla’s surging stock price briefly made it the most valuable automaker in the U.S., surpassing GM’s market cap for the first time.

You can reach Nick Bunkley at nbunkley@crain.com -- Follow Nick on Twitter: @nickbunkley

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