QUEBEC CITY — Cadillac will roll out its Super Cruise partially autonomous driving system through its entire lineup beginning in 2020 as Canadian buyers warm up to the idea of giving up some control of their vehicle.
Super Cruise is a limited, semi-autonomous driving system in the vein of Tesla’s Autopilot and Mercedes-Benz’s Drive Pilot programs. When it’s activated, drivers can take their hands off the wheel as the car drives itself, keeping a safe distance from vehicles ahead of it and staying within the intended lane. An infrared camera monitors the driver’s eyes to ensure he or she is paying attention, though hands are not required on the steering wheel.
So far, Super Cruise is available only in the two most expensive Cadillac CT6 trims, and it can only be used on two-way highways in Canada and the United States that Cadillac has mapped, provided there is no major construction or hazardous weather.
That could soon change: General Motors said it would begin expanding the Super Cruise to all models by 2020, while eventually offering it on models across all GM brands.
Cadillac Canada Product Manager Harry Ng said the company markets Super Cruise as a way to have a more relaxed, less tiring drive on the highway than if the driver was in full control.
“Every time you get behind the wheel, you’re doing all these tasks subconsciously,” said Ng. “You may not notice, but you’re constantly processing visual information, to apply the throttle, to make steering corrections, check again, and you just repeat this process over and over again. You’re not doing anything. You’re just sitting in the comfort of your seat, but you’re tired.”
GM is expanding the Super Cruise as Canadians get used to the idea of handing over certain capabilities to their vehicles — if it doesn’t cost them much, according to data from a 2016 Deloitte study.
Sixty-two per cent of Canadian said they would be in interested in “advanced automation,” which would combine features including adaptive cruise control and lane-centreing technology — as with Super Cruise — though only 29 per cent were interested in fully self-driving cars. Interest also was lower in Canada than it was in Mexico and the United States, according to Deloitte.
Much of that might have to do with pricing: Consumers were willing to pay an average of $634 for full or partial self-driving technology, down from $1,066 in 2014. The Super Cruise option for the CT6 Premium Luxury costs $5,750.
The data also revealed an age gap: Younger buyers, those in Generations Y and Z, said they were willing to pay an average of $1,321 for that technology, while baby boomers and those older were only willing to pay $286.
Ryan Robinson, lead automotive researcher at Deloitte, said semi-autonomous features, such as Super Cruise, could help drivers grow more comfortable with self-driving technology as it becomes more commonplace and is viewed as safe.
“These put you on the path to full autonomy,” said Robinson. “They might not be exactly full autonomous vehicles in the strictest sense just yet. But as these connect in the customers’ minds over time [as a way] to improve safety, it’s definitely attractive.”