Cadillac is joining the ranks of Toyota, BMW, and Volkswagen this week, by announcing that it is working on an automated driving technology named Super Cruise that could allow drivers to take their hands off the wheel for long stretches of road trips.
Keen auto technology observers shouldn’t find this all that surprising: today’s high-tech automobile has dozens of individual features that, when combined, could facilitate automated driving. In fact, Cadillac notes many of the requisite building blocks are already available on the new 2013 XTS and ATS sedans.
The switch to electronic power assisted steering and drive-by-wire throttle and brakes means a car can adjust its speed and position without physically moving any of the controls.The next step is the inclusion of cameras and sensors: radar sensors on the front and rear bumpers allow for easier parking, automatic cruise control, and auto emergency braking. Cameras mounted behind the rear view mirror enable the car to see other cars, as well as recognize lane markings and street signs. Sensors mounted on the wing mirrors provide blind spot warnings, and GPS units provide information on twists, turns, and hills.
Put all of those together and you’ve got what Cadillac calls Super Cruise, a forthcoming feature that would allow cars to drive themselves for long stretches of time on the highway. We call this automated driving, as opposed to the fully autonomous driving done by Google’s fleet of Toyota Prius and Lexus RX450h cars that can fully drive themselves, from start to finish. Super Cruise would allow the car to center itself in the lane, speed up or slow down based on traffic, and even come to a full stop on its own.
As with most futuristic technologies, Super Cruise is at least three years away from being commercially viable. Still, the ultimate goal is to make Super Cruise available in some Cadillacs “by mid-decade.”