General Motors is developing a new version of its Super Cruise driver-assist technology that isn't limited to highways, bringing hands-free capability to city centers and neighborhood streets.
The technology, internally called Ultra Cruise, complements the Super Cruise system, which works on more than 200,000 miles of highways in the U.S. and Canada.
"Super Cruise is all highways, all the time and increased capability. The only downside to that is when you get off the highway, you don't have it. Ultra Cruise is trying to take that same capability off the highway," Doug Parks, GM's executive vice president of global product development, purchasing and supply chain, said Tuesday during Citi's 2020 Car of the Future Symposium.
Ultra Cruise will cover everyday driving in neighborhoods, cities and subdivisions. Ultra Cruise could position GM to better compete with Tesla's Autopilot system, but like Super Cruise, Ultra Cruise will require an engaged driver at all times, Parks said.
"We're trying to be focused on, how can we give drivers additional capabilities above and beyond the highways at a priceable level? We can't afford to put $100,000 worth of sensors on the vehicle and have people pay for those," he said.
A GM spokeswoman said the company doesn't have specific details or an official name for the next-generation system to announce.
Since its introduction in 2017, Super Cruise has been available only on the CT6, which went out of production in North America at the end of January. GM plans to expand Super Cruise to 22 nameplates by 2023. The technology will move beyond Cadillac to GM's other brands in 2021. This year, Super Cruise will be available on the 2021 Cadillac Escalade, CT4 and CT5.
About a third of CT6s are sold with Super Cruise, according to GM, and customers who have it use the feature about half the time when it's available. GM says more than 70,000 miles a week are driven using Super Cruise and that more than 85 percent of CT6 owners have said they would prefer or only consider a vehicle equipped with Super Cruise in the future.
In January, GM said it would add automated lane-changing capability to Super Cruise when it expands to other Cadillac nameplates. Parks also said Tuesday that Super Cruise soon will keep control of the vehicle as it leaves one freeway for another. Currently, the driver would have to facilitate that change. GM is also working on how the technology handles curves and exit ramps, he said.
"There will be more features added over time, and that's really done inside of GM," Parks said. "We've got quite a team working on that."