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How Does Cadillac Super Cruise Work?

Cadillac Super Cruise is a semi-autonomous hands-free driving system for use on limited access highways. With Super Cruise, highway driving—or, ahem, cruising—is easier and more comfortable because the system automatically controls vehicle speed and steering. But if you’re prone to distraction or encouraged to think you can be because you don’t need to hold the steering wheel, the system won’t work because it requires driver attention at all times.

How Does Cadillac Super Cruise Driving System Work?

Based on the Society of Automobile Engineers (SAE) International classification, Cadillac Super Cruise falls under Level 2 (of 5), which means it provides partial driving automation. So, yes, a Super Cruise-enabled vehicle can drive for you, but, no, you cannot take a nap, check your email, or watch a movie while you’re behind the wheel.

How Cadillac Super Cruise Works

Introduced in 2017, Cadillac Super Cruise was the first of its kind to implement two advanced technologies: a driver attention system and precision LiDAR map data. Combined with a plethora of cameras and radar sensors, Super Cruise took semi-autonomous driving to another level by providing more information from the road to the vehicle and, ultimately, to the driver.

Activating Super Cruise is simple and intuitive. As long as adaptive cruise control is enabled, Super Cruise can be used. Its icon will appear in white on the instrument cluster to indicate the system is ready. Press the dedicated Super Cruise steering wheel-mounted button and if the IP symbol illuminates green along with the light bar embedded within the steering wheel, your hands are free to move about the cabin. But your eyes must remain on the road.

A small camera affixed to the topside of the steering column continually monitors the driver. Utilizing infrared lights, this monitoring system can track whether you are watching the road ahead or streaming cute pet videos, regardless of the ambient lighting within the car. By comparison, semi-autonomous driver assistance systems offered by other automakers rely on steering wheel inputs and warning messages to address driver attentiveness. A tactile-reliant system can, unfortunately, open itself up to loopholes for those really intent on not driving.

Getting back to the Cadillac, drivers can manually turn off the system by pushing the Super Cruise button again or pressing on the brake pedal. Super Cruise will also automatically disengage if the driver is inattentive and unresponsive to various alerts, such as light bar flashes, seat vibrations, and audible warnings. Exterior elements play a role as well.

Similar to other assisted driving systems, the Cadillac’s gathers real-time data from cameras, GPS, and radars. But Super Cruise adds another element with LiDAR-scanned map data. By precision mapping controlled-access highways (e.g., divided freeways that require on- and off-ramps), Cadillac Super Cruise is beneficial on long-distance trips because factors like intersections are eliminated from the equation.

But weather conditions and road surfaces must be ideal, or the system won’t work. Inclement weather can block radar sensors, and poor visibility or unmaintained roadways can make lane markers difficult for the on-board cameras to see. Super Cruise will disengage just as adaptive cruise control would in the same conditions.

Latest Improvements to Cadillac Super Cruise

Super Cruise debuted on the 2018 Cadillac CT6. Although the large sedan is discontinued after the 2020 model year, an enhanced Super Cruise version will be available for the upcoming 2021 Cadillac CT4 and Cadillac CT5, which were all-new models for 2020. The completely-redesigned 2021 Cadillac Escalade also gets the latest version of Super Cruise. All are expected to go on sale by the end of 2020.

A notable addition to this enhanced version of Cadillac Super Cruise is automatic lane-change capability. With only a tap of a lever, the driver prompts the system to activate the turn signal and proceed to change lanes if certain conditions are met. If Super Cruise is unable to perform the task safely, the system will inform the driver to do so manually. Other improvements to the next-generation Super Cruise include more detailed map information, updated software for steering and speed control, and greater ease of use and functionality.

Currently, Super Cruise remains a Cadillac-only feature, but parent company General Motors has plans to extend the hands-free technology to 22 vehicles by 2023. The first implementation of Super Cruise in a vehicle that isn’t a Cadillac is expected to be the 2022 Chevrolet Bolt EUV, a new electric SUV based on the Bolt EV electric car.

Cadillac is the source of information in this article. It was accurate as of April 16, 2020, but may have changed since that time.