GM uses delay to fine tune its self-driving system – USA TODAY
General Motors has taken heat for delaying its Super Cruise semi-autonomous technology until next year, but the automaker has used the extra time to minimize the risk that drivers will disengage from the steering wheel, an issue that has surfaced in recent crashes involving a competitor’s product.
Mark Reuss, GM executive vice president for global product development, described part of the system Friday on the sidelines of a cyber security conference at Cobo Center.
First, the Cadillac CT6, the model on which the new system will be introduced, will not be able to activate Super Cruise unless it’s on a highway that GM has exhaustively mapped through a 3-D vision technology known as Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR).
Then there will be a series of lights on the steering wheel that signal the system’s readiness to engage, Reuss said.
“More importantly, it does a comparison of what the driver is actually doing … Through the driver’s eye you can detect his or her level of attention,” Reuss said.
This is a refinement of a technology that has been around for a few years in some luxury vehicles that triggers a wake-up signal or alarm if the eye-scan of the driver detects signs of drowsiness such as drooping eyelids.
Reuss also said he and colleagues recently tested Super Cruise at GM’s Milford Proving Grounds, but he declined to offer a specific date when it will be available at dealerships. GM is prepared to delay the technology’s rollout again if it finds glitches.
“We’ll put it out there when it’s ready,” Reuss said.
Since early May there have been a spate of accidents, including one fatality, involving Tesla Motors’ vehicles that were equipped with a similar technology called Autopilot. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, National Transportation Safety Board and Tesla are investigating causes of each incident. It’s not clear whether Autopilot, driver error or a combination of both contributed to the crashes.
On July 14 Consumer Reports called on Tesla to disable its Autopilot system until it can verify a driver’s hands are on the steering wheel, and suggested the electric car manufacturer rename the technology that it said has led some owners to disengage completely from driving.
Owners manuals that Tesla provides to owners of its Model S and Model X clearly warn drivers that they must be prepared to retake control of the steering wheel at any time.