For General Motors, the immediate future of autonomous driving isn't about letting car owners trust their vehicles to drive themselves all the time, but rather occasionally being able to remove their hands from the wheel and let the car take over.
That future arrives this fall in the form of the Super Cruise feature on the Cadillac CT6. By combining inputs from cameras and radar sensors mounted on the luxury sedan's body with a precision map database, the CT6 will control its speed and keep itself in the center of a lane during highway driving.
Although you may not need to keep your hands on the wheel while Super Cruise is active, it's far from a set-it-and-forget-it technology. It's actually watching you almost as closely as it's monitoring the road ahead: the system includes a camera and infrared lights mounted directly onto the steering column to observe where you're looking at all times.
If Super Cruise determines you're not paying attention to the road, it will trigger a system of alerts: visual indicators in the instrument cluster, tactile alerts such as seat vibrations and audible warning tones. If you still ignore it -- maybe you're fast asleep, or engrossed in a game on your smartphone -- Super Cruise will bring the car to a complete stop as soon as it's safe to do so.
"When we were developing Super Cruise we knew it was important to keep the driver engaged during operation," engineer Barry Walkup said in a statement. "That's why we've added a driver attention function, to insist on driver supervision."
Super Cruise bears a close resemblance to the Tesla Autopilot feature, which can also take over steering and speed control while requiring the driver to stay alert. Neither system would be possible without super-accurate mapping databases, which allow the car to pinpoint its exact location without relying on often-fickle GPS signals.
GM says its database contains map data for every mile of limited-access highway in the U.S. and Canada, obtained using Lidar sensors. It's four to eight times more accurate than GPS signals.
This story originally appeared on PCMag