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The new Cadillacs are getting automatic lane-changing, thanks to updated Super Cruise

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GM’s flagship ADAS is getting a facelift

Super Cruise, the hands-free driver assistance system from General Motors, is getting a major upgrade. An enhanced version of the advanced driver assistance system (ADAS) will be introduced starting on the 2021 Cadillac CT5 and CT4, followed by the all-new 2021 Escalade, the automaker announced on Tuesday. Among the improvements will be an automated lane-change functionality, which enables the hands-free system to change lanes when conditions are appropriate.

Launched in 2017, the Super Cruise driver assistance feature is currently only available on the Cadillac CT5 and CT6 sedans. It uses information from cameras and radar sensors embedded on the car, GPS data, and 3D mapping data collected by the company to allow for hands-free driving. It pairs this capability with a driver-monitoring system that uses an infrared camera to make sure the driver is paying attention to the road in case Super Cruise needs to hand control back over.

The enhancements to Super Cruise were made possible by General Motors’ all-new digital vehicle platform, which provides more electrical bandwidth and data processing power. First released last year, this new “digital nerve system” will enable smartphone-style over-the-air software updates on all GM vehicles in the next four years.

“This is our most extensive update we’ve made to Super Cruise since its debut,” Mario Maiorana, Super Cruise chief engineer, said in a statement. “We have made a number of improvements to make Super Cruise more intuitive, better performing and more accessible for our customers. In addition to the automated lane change functionality, we’ve made improvements to the user interface and hands-free driving dynamics.”

Automatic lane-changing is a highly complex task that requires input from a variety of sensors working in close concert with the vehicle’s digital nervous system. It’s also a sign that GM is growing more confident in the capabilities of its ADAS. Here’s how it will work for drivers:

When Super Cruise is engaged, the driver can either tap or fully latch the turn signal to indicate that they would like to change lanes. This will prompt the system to look for an acceptable opening in the indicated lane, while also taking time to let other cars know that a lane change is imminent. If the system determines that the indicated lane is open, the vehicle will merge into said lane. The driver attention system will continue to require the driver to focus on the surroundings during the lane change.

Upon initiation, the gauge cluster will display messages letting the driver know when the automated lane change has begun, or if lane change is unavailable and changing lanes must be manually completed by the driver. The system will display messages, such as “looking for an opening” or “changing lanes” to keep the driver informed on the status of the lane change.

GM claims that the stuff that makes Super Cruise work — like the map data accrued from LIDAR-equipped fleet vehicles driving every highway in the US — also helps it gain a real understanding of the surrounding road, which enables it to make the right call on changing lanes. The vehicle’s camera and radar sensors scan the area around the vehicle to determine if an acceptable opening exists. And the combination of all of this tech with Super Cruise’s driver monitoring system ensures a “confident execution of the automated lane change,” the automaker says.

Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

The only other company to offer automated lane-changing in its vehicles is Tesla. The electric automaker’s added the feature in 2015, and later packaged it with its Navigate on Autopilot system for highway driving. Later, it was updated to allow some drivers to choose whether the car can automatically change lanes without their input. The function was praised by some drivers who appreciate Tesla’s willingness to take risks, while others criticized it for lagging behind the skill of human drivers.

GM needs to make Super Cruise available in more models because the future of the CT6 is in question. The vehicle that launched Super Cruise had been in production at GM’s Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant, but it will need to move elsewhere now that the automaker plans to retool the facility exclusively for the production of autonomous and electric vehicles. GM has said it will keep the CT6 in the US lineup, but it has yet to indicate where it will move production.

Starting this year, though, the marque plans on expanding Super Cruise to its entire lineup, with other GM brands to follow. Cadillac also plans on offering vehicle-to-everything (V2X) communication capabilities in an unnamed high-volume crossover vehicle by 2023, with the goal of expanding the technology across Cadillac’s portfolio.

Of course, Super Cruise doesn’t come cheap. CT6 buyers shell out $2,500 for the standalone option on luxury (sticker price: $66,290) and platinum models ($85,290). Also, on luxury models, Super Cruise requires buyers to purchase the $3,100 driver assist package. There’s no word yet on how it will be priced in future models.

Cadillac also offered some stats on Super Cruise usage and penetration in its lineup so far:

  • Around 30 percent of Cadillac CT6s are equipped with Super Cruise
  • Customers are engaging the system around 50 percent of the time when available
  • More than 70,000 total miles driven weekly — and over 5.2 million miles in total — using Super Cruise
  • Over 85 percent of current CT6 owners said they would prefer or only consider a vehicle equipped with Super Cruise