Simanaitis Says

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I’VE RECENTLY SEEN TV ADS for GM Super Cruise which show the driver playing patty-cake with passengers. A confessed Luddite, I’m late in learning about this enhanced driver assistance (it has been around since late 2017 when it was introduced on the 2018 Cadillac CT6).

Here are tidbits about Super Cruise gleaned from GMC material as well as my usual Internet sleuthing.

Super Cruise: Level 2 Plus. The GMC website gives details that help distinguish Super Cruise from “self-driving” technology such as Tesla’s Autopilot. In particular, think of Super Cruise as a significant enhancement of existing Level 2 driver-assistance technology in its transition to Level 3.

Image from SimanaitisSays, December 30, 2017.

Notice that in Level 2, the driver remains in control, aided by systems such as Adaptive Cruise Control and Lane Assist. Level 3 “assumes full control within narrow parameters.” Automatic Emergency Braking, for example, is bordering on pure Level 3. Super Cruise extends Level 2, with one of the parameters being enhanced road information.  

The GMC website notes, “Super Cruise functions with GMC Connected Services and uses real-time cameras, sensors, GPS and LiDAR map data to help detect curves, helping to make long drives and commutes more comfortable.” GMC Connected Services is an online link using the company’s enhanced road data. 

Where Super Cruise Functions. Since its introduction, Super Cruise’s range of applicability has been extended to more than 200,000 miles of U.S. highways, principally but not uniquely limited-access highways. To put this in perspective, the nation has 4.17 million miles of roads, of which more than 3 million are rural. The Interstate Highway System totals 47,432 miles.

Super Cruise roads. GMC map is interactive, extending to entire country.

I checked out my Southern California locale: 405, 5, and 55 are mapped, as is part of 133 down to Laguna Beach. PCH is not.

Super Cruise Support. To use Super Cruise, the driver must turn on the car’s Adaptive Cruise Control as well as set its Forward Collision System to “ALERT AND BRAKE.” Also, Teen Driver is OFF.

A Driver Attention Camera monitors the driver’s eye movements, even when wearing sunglasses. If one’s eyes stray from ahead, the system gives three staged alerts culminating with Super Cruise and Adaptive Cruise Control disengagement. 

MagazineExperiences. Awhile back, Ezra Dyer described in Car and Driver, April 17, 2021,  “Over 380 miles on I-95, Super Cruise drove for 346. It also canceled 25 times, in the process revealing the biggest hurdle for autonomy: unpredictable humans.”

Image by Ezra Dyer/Car and Driver.

Ezra cited “what’s known as an edge case, which is an event considered way out of the ordinary—a problem that tests the limits of a system. And Super Cruise makes you realize that driving inherently offers up an array of edge cases.” 

He continued, “Staying in your lane on a divided highway and keeping pace with traffic is the easiest task possible, low-hanging fruit for automation, and it’s still insanely difficult. There’s bleached-out pavement with faded lines combined with shadows across the road, construction zones with lane-shift chicanes, new sections of road that don’t match the map. And, the biggest variable of all: other drivers.”

Super Cruise reacts to many of these edge cases by automatic disconnecting.

R&T More Positive. Brian Silvestro reported in R&T, July 1, 2022, “The Newest Version of Cadillac’s Super Cruise is Actually Great.” He noted, “… it’s uncanny just how well Super Cruise works…. Most impressive is Super Cruise’s ability to analyze the road situation and change lanes accordingly. The system will speed up or slow down to automatically switch lanes, just like a real driver would…. 

This and the following image from R&T.

“If a particularly strong gust of wind catches the car,” Brian says, “it’ll apply corrective steering to bring itself back to the center of the lane. This was especially helpful considering the car used for this test was a 2022 Escalade, a vehicle with the side profile of a building.” 

Image by Brian Silvestro/R&T.

Brian notes the limitations of Super Cruise mapping: “The problem is, there are over 4 million miles of road in the United States. So if you don’t drive on one of these re-mapped roads, Super Cruise is useless to you.” 

By comparison, GPS systems have dense updated maps. 

Also, price: “Adding Super Cruise to your Cadillac will cost you $2500 upfront, along with an active subscription to keep it working. The first three years are included with the purchase price, but after that, you’ll have to shell out $25 a month, according to Onstar’s website.”

Summation. Brian concludes, “To me, it only seems worth it if you’re commuting on a Super Cruise-mapped road every day. And even then, it’d have to be a long enough drive to keep Super Cruise enabled for more than a few minutes at a time. Otherwise, it just becomes a gimmick to show off to friends and family a few times a year. But as the system gets better, it’ll begin to appeal to more and more people. Seeing how far GM has come so far, we have high hopes for the future of Super Cruise.”

Thus far, too, I would agree in commending GM’s conservative path approaching Level 3. ds 

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2023

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