GM Extending Super Cruise for City Driving

Hannah Lutz brings us the latest on GM Super Cruise at Automotive News:

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.

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The naming team had a tough time deciding between “Ultra Cruise” and runner up “Super Duper Cruise”.

This is GM’s competition to Tesla Autopilot. How the development progresses will be critical to the future of the company, likely moreso than the work being done at GM’s Cruise unit (which was a Y-Combinator startup acquired by GM shortly after their demo day).

The biggest problem right now is that it only works on roads that have been pre-mapped, which is why only 200,000 miles of highways out of the more than 4 million miles of navigable roadways in the US are supported. By contrast, Tesla Autopilot can be activated anywhere with lane lines (and continues working even if lane lines fade).

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. 

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Companies that can’t compete with Tesla Autopilot will die this decade. The importance of driver assistance technology and how it will evolve is still dramatically underestimated.

“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.

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Wait, you can’t afford to put $100,000 worth of sensors on a vehicle and have people pay for them? Don’t tell the rest of the “self driving car” industry –– they’ve already taken billions of dollars in funding to develop a product with hilariously bad unit economics.

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. 

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Let me get this straight –– in the three years since this technology was introduced, it’s only been available on one car… and that car is no longer in production?! In other words, GM has stopped production of the first version of this technology.

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.

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Wake up Detroit. You better get moving on this. It’s not enough to compete with today’s Autopilot in 2023. By 2023 you better be fully autonomous, or you’re going to end up scrapping the entire project and going with an external supplier.

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.

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One car in the entire lineup had the technology, the Cadillac CT6. 70% of the cars that could run it didn’t have the option added. And half the time people who have it don’t even use it and just drive on the highway manually.

GM says more than 70,000 miles a week are driven using Super Cruise. To put this in context, Lex Fridman estimates that Tesla Autopilot drives 7 million miles every day, or about 50 million miles a week. That lead isn’t getting smaller, it’s getting wider as Tesla’s production accelerates.

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.

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Ah yes, auto lane change capability. Highway interchanges. These were great features when Tesla added them years ago.

“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.”

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They’re going to need “quite a team” indeed, if they want to compete with Karpathy and friends.

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