Cadillac engineers are taking development of the brand’s semi-autonomous driving system, dubbed “Super Cruise,” to the next level, according to a General Motors news release.
Trials are now underway in the real world, the release said, with plans to have the system ready for release later in this decade. While that’s far from specific, it at least gives us some kind of idea where GM feels it may be on the development cycle.
Super Cruise Research and Development Manager Jeremy Salinger said, “As we continually upgrade Super Cruise’s enabling technologies, it is important to expose the updated system to different environments. The best way to achieve reliable performance is to gather as much data as possible in the conditions our customers will experience.”
Super Cruise is able to perform semi-autonomous driving tasks including following a lane with no input from the driver’s hands as well as braking and speed control under some conditions, and is “designed to ease the driver’s workload on freeways only, in bumper-to-bumper traffic and on long road trips,” the release said, all the while cautioning that “the driver’s attention is still required.”
Reinforcing its own caution, the release added, “Even when Super Cruise becomes available on production vehicles, driver attention will be required because the system will have operational limitations based on external factors such as traffic, weather and visibility of lane markings. When reliable data is not available, such as when there are no lane markings, the system will prompt the driver to resume steering.”
If this is starting to sound a bit familiar, it should. We’ve told you about Audi’s autonomous parking trials, for example, and several other stories here have covered the development of autonomous driving for the real world. Like some other systems being developed, Cadillac says its Super Cruise system will make use of radar, ultrasonic sensors, cameras, and GPS map data. To-date, its development has focused on closed-course and driving simulator testing in addition to “limited driving on real roads,” the release said.
“When GM finishes testing the system, it expects to have accumulated hundreds of thousands of miles of driving in various environments, such as day and night driving and a variety of weather and traffic conditions,” it added.
Cadillac said many of the technologies necessary for Super Cruise implementation are already available on 2013 models such as the ATS and XTS, including those available in the current Driver Assist package.
In addition to those technologies, Super Cruise “adds the integration of lane-centering technology that relies on forward-looking cameras to detect lane markings and other sensors to detect curves and other road characteristics,” the release said.
“Super Cruise will also use a series of alerts to communicate with the driver based on human factors research conducted on test tracks and in GM R&D’s 360-degree motion-based driving simulator specifically designed to induce realistic driver behaviors. Researchers used the simulator to measure driver eye glance behavior and control interactions in computer-generated automated driving situations,” it added.
GM Safety Center Engineering Specialist Daniel Glaser said, “Drivers may be tempted to engage in secondary tasks during semi-automated driving, and we need to make sure we understand the changing conditions. In our simulator studies we are developing techniques to manage secondary task behavior to assist in our development of techniques for the road.”
In other words, it sounds like GM is looking for ways to make sure you don’t get tempted to play with your smartphone’s Facebook app while Super Cruise creeps along in traffic or whisks you down an open interstate highway. We’ll be interested in seeing how they tackle that temptation.