In a few years we’ll see the introduction of several self-driving cars that will forever change the way we get from point A to point B, but what options are there today to make your daily commute a little less tedious? Over the last year or two several automakers have introduced new driver assistance technology, like adaptive cruise control that lets the car control the vehicle speed and even bring the car to a complete stop. While those Level 1 systems do have their benefits, they’re still a bit off from fully autonomous systems. So what’s next? Level 2 partial automation systems like Tesla’s Autopilot and Cadillac’s new Super Cruise systems give the car the ability to take over the steering, acceleration and braking.
While the Level 2 systems still require some driver involvement, like switching lanes and responding to traffic signals, they represent the highest level currently available with Level 3, 4, and 5 systems still not yet a reality. Tesla’s Autopilot system has been on the market for about two years, but as everyone knows, technology changes fast and now Cadillac is ready to ready to throw its hat in the ring with its new Super Cruise system. Is Cadillac’s Super Cruise the best Level 2 system available? Will it make your daily commute at least a little more relaxing?
For starters remember that Cadillac’s Super Cruise system is a Level 2 system, which means that the driver still has to monitor the driving involvement and perform lane changes. The system only works on the highway and at speeds up to 85 mph and it has a few tricks to make sure you’re paying attention to the road ahead and not your friend that’s texting you non-stop.
Super Cruise doesn’t switch lanes for you
As of right now the Super Cruise system is only available on the CT6. The system adds a lot of hardware, which you’ve probably never even heard of. LiDAR map data, a steering column-mounted camera makes sure the driver is engaged, a steering wheel-mounted infra-red emitters that help the camera see your eyes even through sunglasses, object detection modules that look out for objects in the road, and a super capacitor that can take over if CT6’s main 12-volt system has an issue. The Super Cruise system also uses the adaptive cruise control’s windshield-mounted camera system and radar systems.
Although the Super Cruise system’s LiDAR, infra-red emitters and radar systems may sound a bit overwhelming, using the system is not. Simply accelerate onto the highway, center the car in a lane and wait for a green steering wheel icon to illuminate in the instrument cluster. Once the system is activated a solid green LED bar will light up on the steering wheel to let you know that Super Cruise is active. That’s it. Now you can remove your hands from the steering wheel and foot off the accelerator pedal and let the system take over. All you have to do is continue to look forward, since the system’s column-mounted camera is checking to make sure you’re paying attention and not texting, taking a selfie or looking at other passengers in the car.
The system constantly monitors the driver’s attention level
If you do happen to look away too long or place something in front of your eyes, like your phone for a few seconds, the system will send you warning signals. Ignore the warnings and the system will bring the car to a complete stop. Sorry that means you can’t simply doze off or read a book behind the wheel. I tested this a few times by looking away for a few seconds and the system does immediately try to get your attention, “Eyes forward Mr.”
In the future we’ll be able to enter a destination into a car’s system and it will simply take you there without any help from the driver, but don’t expect anything like that with Cadillac’s Super Cruise system. You still have to manually do lane changes and also take over if you’re switching from one highway to the next. The system also doesn’t work on city streets, so if you’re commute is mostly in city traffic, like mine, then Super Cruise won’t really provide any benefits to you.
Arrive more relaxed
While I wish the Super Cruise system would take over everything while driving in traffic, the technology is still not there yet. But the fact that the system allows you to remove your hands and feet from the controls while on the highway is great. First there’s the safety benefit. Anyone that’s driven a car with the Level 1 systems, knows the benefits of adaptive cruise control over standard cruise control. I also like the added security that just in case I happen to take my eyes off the road for a second, it’s always looking out for sudden changes in traffic, like if a car suddenly stops in front of you. The system will also help keep you centered in your lane.
The second benefit is the fact that Super Cruise takes over in driving situations that aren’t very fun or engaging. Sitting in traffic is the worst and driving 500 miles on a road trip gets tiring. Everything that the car can do to help you relax a bit more is beneficial. Think of how much technology has changed in cars over the years. Manual transmissions have largely been replaced by easier (yes less fun) automatic transmissions, early navigation systems didn’t account for traffic changes and now they do, even opening the trunk has gotten easier with power operated systems that automatically open with the swipe of your foot. Cadillac’s Super Cruise is the next step to make driving easier and safer.
How much does Super Cruise cost?
The Super Cruise system is only currently available on the 2018 Cadillac CT6. It’s standard on the CT6 Platinum model and a $5,000 option on the CT6 Premium Luxury models. Cadillac hasn’t announced which models will get Super Cruise next, but there is a rumor that its upcoming compact XT4 crossover could get it next.