The 2018 Cadillac CT6 has won the Automobile Journalists Association Canada’s Innovation Awards for Super Cruise, the vehicle’s true hands-free driving system.
Cruise control has come a long way from the systems that simply maintained a vehicle’s speed.
Adaptive cruise systems that will maintain a preset distance behind another vehicle, regardless of how slow the leading vehicle is going, are now fairly common on many vehicles. However, cruise control has now taken a giant leap forward with Cadillac. They call it Super Cruise.
Super Cruise is the winner of the Automobile Journalists Association Canada’s (AJAC) annual Innovation Awards, joining Lexus as a winner in the safety category with their Safety System A and Toyota in the Green category with their Gas Injection Heat Pump system. Cadillac’s Super Cruise is the world’s first true hands-free driving system for the freeway and became available on the 2018 CT6 models just last September.
Several technologies are required to enable Super Cruise operation. First, Cadillac mapped over 200,000 kilometres of limited access freeways in North America within five centimetres of accuracy using LiDar. LiDar uses the reflection of pulsed laser light waves to create a 3D digital map of the roadway and surroundings. The maps are automatically downloaded to the CT6 four times a year via the car’s OnStar system. Global positioning using satellite and OnStar technology are supplemented by the Cadillac CT6’s own navigation, camera and radar systems on board the vehicle.
To activate the system, the driver first turns on the Adaptive Cruise control system to set vehicle speed. If the CT6 Super Cruise system detects you are on a mapped limited-access freeway and other conditions are met, such as GPS is available, the road lane markings are visible and there are no system faults, then the Super Cruise symbol in the instrument cluster will illuminate in white, indicating the system is ready. Then all the driver needs to do is press the Super Cruise button on the steering wheel and when the instrument cluster symbol and the LED light bar built into the top section of the steering wheel turn green, the driver can remove their hands from the steering wheel, allowing you to pay attention to driving conditions around you. To disengage the system, either turn it off or press on the brake pedal.
During operation, Super Cruise projects a path down the road as far as 2500 metres ahead. Using the GPS system, the car knows where it is but this is only accurate to about 15 metres in distance. The vehicle computer uses the GPS signal and high-definition LiDar maps to narrow the vehicle’s position to within two metres and this is used to project the vehicle path. Then the vehicle camera system detects lane lines and roadway edges to centre the vehicle in the lane. The system can work in rain, fog and even snow. If the sensors can’t work, then the system tells the driver to take control of the steering. The system will not change lanes, but the driver can take control at any time by simply taking hold of the steering wheel to change lanes. The steering wheel light bar will turn blue, indicating that Super Cruise is on but the driver is currently in control.
There are many safety features built into Super Cruise. Head-tracking software helps make sure your eyes are on the road. If the system detects that the driver may not appear attentive, then it will alert the driver by flashing the green steering-wheel light bar. If this continues too long, a second alert is given by changing the green flashing light to a red flashing light. This is accompanied by either warning beeps or a vibration from the Safety Alert Seat, warning the driver to take control of the steering. Sensors detect when the driver has hands on the wheel.
A third alert level is reached if the driver doesn’t respond to the red flashing led in an appropriate time frame. A voice command will tell the driver to take control of steering immediately. Adaptive cruise control will disengage and the information centre message indicates the systems are locked out. Continued failure to take steering control will cause the vehicle to slow in the lane of travel and eventually brake to a stop while an OnStar adviser is called and the vehicle brake and hazard warning lights come on. Super Cruise can’t be activated again until the next ignition cycle.