Today, General Motors (GM) has unveiled Ultra Cruise, it is an upgrade from the Super Cruise autonomous driving system that was available on some of their models. This is their closet attempt to rival Tesla’s Full Self Driving system.
The previous GM’s driver assist system, Super Cruise offered hands-free driving on mapped, divided highways in the US and Canada. The new system, Ultra Cruise, goes further, according to GM, it will handle hands-free driving in 95% of all scenarios, that is, city streets and even paved rural roads. Despite this, the driver will still be required to be attentive and alert enough to take over control when human intervention is needed. That part will be handled by the Driver Attention Camera system that will be carried over from the Super Cruise system. Since Ultra Cruise doesn’t offer 100% autonomy it falls squarely under Level 2 driver-assist system, based on the SAE Scale of Autonomy.
To achieve this higher autonomy, Ultra Cruise relies on a combination of cameras, radars and lidar technology onboard. They all work together to support everything from parking in your driveway to avoiding objects, on- demand lane changes and left and right-hand turns. All the while offering a human-machine interface directly in front of the driver, so they know exactly what the car sees.
GM is planning on covering over 2 million miles of roads in Canada and the USA in time for the Ultra Cruise official launch in 2023. After that, another 1.4 million miles will be covered. At launch Ultra Cruise will be available exclusively to GM’s Cadillac models, their other brands including GMC, Buick and Chevrolet will have to settle for Super Cruise for a while at least.
Ultra Cruise is now the closest rival of the autonomy champ, Tesla Full Self Driving, which also doesn’t offer 100% hands free autonomy despite its name. It will interesting to see how GM’s system performs on the real road.