Weekly Brief: Cadillac debuts hands-free driving for motorways

It claims to be safe, reliable and nothing like Tesla Autopilot. Andrew Tolve reports.

Tesla’s Autopilot is about to get some much-needed competition. General Motors announced that its hands-free driving system Super Cruise will debut in Cadillac’s new flagship saloon car, the 2018 CTS Platinum, at a price of $85,790 (£64,000). The less expensive CTS trim lines will also feature Super Cruise if customers are willing to shell out an extra $5k for the Premium Package.

Unlike Tesla’s Autopilot, which can be engaged pretty much anywhere at the driver’s discretion and has led to several high-profile fatalities and lots of reckless behaviour since its debut in 2015, Super Cruise has strict geo-fencing that only allows it to work on pre-mapped, limited-access motorways that have clear lane markings and on-ramps and off-ramps for exits. That adds up to about 160,000 miles of highway in the US and Canada.

When conditions meet these criteria, a light-bar on the top of the steering wheel glows white. That light-bar goes green when Super Cruise is engaged. Facial recognition technology then monitors the driver to ensure that he or she is paying attention at all times. If not, the light-bar will flash red, the system will emit audible alerts, the seat will start to vibrate and, as a final recourse, the car will bring itself to a halt in the breakdown lane and alert the authorities for assistance via OnStar. Cadillac says that it hopes to expand Super Cruise’s functionality to non-highway driving in the coming years.

In other news, Toyota turned to a 22-year-old wunderkind named Anthony Russell to take its self-driving car programme to the next level. Russell is the CEO of a LiDAR start-up called Luminar, whose technology delivers more than an order of magnitude greater resolution than current sensors. It also has the ability to see dark objects at a much greater range, such as a tyre at over 200 metres compared to less than 40 metres in today’s industry standard technology. Luminar’s sensing technology sits at the core of Toyota’s newest autonomous test vehicle, Platform 2.1.

The US Senate is poised to pass sweeping federal legislation that makes it easier for carmakers and tech companies to get self-driving cars on the road. The details of that legislation will be unveiled later this week but Republican Senator John Thune and Democratic Senator Gary Peters say they’ve hashed out a bipartisan agreement on the matter. This comes just a few weeks after the House of Representatives unanimously approved similar legislation.

Uber launched its counter offensive to Transport of London’s announcement that it plans to give Uber the boot for corporate malfeasance. Uber posted a petition to change.org called “Save Your Uber in London”, and within a day racked up more than 400,000 signatures. That number is now approaching one million. With 3.5 million people estimated as Uber users in the city, expect that number to keep on climbing.

Lyft racked up another big name partner in its quest to develop self-driving cars. This time it’s Ford, which announced that it’s working with Lyft to develop a joint technology platform that efficiently dispatches self-driving cars and ensures that riders feel safe and comfortable with the experience. As a first step, Ford will connect its self-driving test vehicles to Lyft's network. Lyft is already working with Waymo, GM, Jaguar, Nutonomy and Drive.ai.

Ecomobix unveiled an end-to-end car-sharing platform that makes it easier for carmakers, car clubs and car rental companies to launch and run their own car-share programmes. The platform is built on Mobility 2.0, an operating system that uses AI machine learning to guarantee more customer-ready cars in the right places at the right time. Ecomobix’s parent company Ecoservice is a car-sharing provider for the likes of BMW Reachnow, AAA Gig carshare and Zipcar.

Finally, Daimler Trucks launched a truck platooning pilot on public roads in Oregon.  Wi-Fi-based vehicle-to-vehicle communication (V2V) will interact with a suite of driver assistance systems onboard that trucks that include adaptive cruise control, lane departure assist and active brake assist. Daimler says this isn’t about fully autonomous trucking — at least not yet. The primary benefits for now are fuel savings and safety, as two connected trucks platooning down the highway have less aerodynamic drag and can respond faster to potential risks.

The Weekly Brief is a round-up of the week’s top telematics news, combining TU-Automotive analysis with information from industry sources.

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