GM wants to reinvent your relationship with the steering wheel.
The automaker says its upcoming Ultra Cruise advanced driver-assist system (ADAS) will be able to handle up to 95% of driving situations without any human input.
As a follow up to the less capable Super Cruise hands-free driving aid, Ultra Cruise will use a suite of sensors that include cameras, radar and lidar to provide the vehicle with 360 degrees of perception that, according to GM, will enable it to do the following:
- Provide users with information based on their experience with the system through an all-new dynamic display
- React to permanent traffic control devices
- Follow internal navigation routes
- Maintain headway; follow speed limits
- Support automatic and on-demand lane change
- Support left and right-hand turns
- Support close object avoidance
- Support parking in residential driveways
At the time it launches in a Cadillac model in 2023, GM says it will be compatible with over 2 million miles of pre-mapped and certified U.S. roads that will expand to 3.4 million-mile network.
“We believe that the combination of different sensors, or sensor fusion, leads to the most robust hands-free driver-assist system for our customers,” said Doug Parks, GM’s head of product development.
Park’s comment contrasts with the view of Elon Musk, who has eschewed lidar and long-range radar for Tesla’s similar Full Self-Driving feature, which now relies just on cameras and short-range ultrasonic sensors for its operation. Musk once said “anyone relying on lidar is doomed” and believes too much data is unnecessarily confusing to the ADAS computers.
Even with the advanced capability, GM refers to Ultra Cruise as a Level 2 autonomous system, with Level 5 being full autonomy, which means it requires the driver to monitor its operation and be prepared to take over in case of an emergency.
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Mercedes-Benz, Audi and other automakers also plan to utilize lidar in the Level 2 and beyond ADAS systems they will be launching in the coming years, while the fully-autonomous vehicles deployed by GM’s Cruise ride-hailing division employ several lidar units each.