On Sunday, GM announced that in 2017 they will be releasing Cadillac models with self-driving technology. The move would make them the first major manufacturer in history to release an official, road-ready autonomous vehicle.
These vehicles, however, won’t be fully self-driving, but instead would give drivers an option to enter “Super Cruise” mode while driving. While in “Super Cruise” mode, drivers would be able to sit back and relax as the vehicle automatically keeps itself in the lane, makes necessary steering adjustments, and triggers braking and speed control to maintain a safe distance from other vehicles.
GM CEO Mary Barra says, “With Super Cruise, when there’s a congestion alert on roads like California’s Santa Monica Freeway, you can let the car take over and drive hands-free and feet-free through the worst stop-and-go traffic around.”
“And if the mood strikes you on the high-speed road from Barstow, California to Las Vegas, you can take a break from the wheel and pedals and let the car do the work.”
This technology is currently not designed to handle inner city technology, though, which would be the final step to full autonomy. GM says that they are currently working hard to develop this technology with hopes that it will be ready by the beginning of the next decade.
Barra says, “The next big challenge on the road to fully automated driving is to tackle the urban environment, where you have to dodge everything from jaywalkers and bike messengers to double-parked delivery trucks.”
With the announcement coming yesterday, GM indicated that safety is one of the main reasons that this technology was worth developing, stating, “This capability will do more than make your driving experience easier and more enjoyable— it will also make it safer by reducing the number of accidents and traffic jams.”
Ironically, 2014 has been a year littered with stories about GM’s complete disregard for safety, with over 100 deaths being contributed to failing products, forgotten recalls, and decade long cover-ups. This, of course, leaves a big question: will consumers feel comfortable purchasing an automated vehicle from GM?
In an interview with Bloomberg, Auto Trader analyst Michelle Krebs concurs, saying “This is going to take a while to win the confidence of consumers.”
Barra and the rest of the leaders at GM, though, are ignoring skeptics; instead, they have their eyes focused on the mission ahead, which includes full autonomy. Barra says, “It’s critical that it works flawlessly every single time. When you look at what has got to come together to make this happen— not just for straight driving on a section of highway, but for every city situation you can imagine— there’s quite a bit of technology that has come together to make this work.”
GM believes that by 2017 they WILL have the technology and the package to make this work, so everybody get ready: a new wave of technology is about to hit the road.