Autonomous cars have been on many lips for some time now, and several companies have active programs to research and develop a system that is safe and capable enough to employ on a mass-market basis. Nissan, Google, Tesla, Ford, and even Toyota have all discussed self-driving cars at one point or another, and all have various efforts in varying degrees of completion to get its system to market. For General Motors, its autonomous — or more accurately, its semi-autonomous system known as ‘Super Cruise’ — will be making its debut on the 2017 Cadillac CTS.
“We are not doing this for the sake of the technology itself. We’re doing it because it’s what customers around the world want. Through technology and innovation, we will make driving safer,” CEO Mary Barra said in GM’s press statement. On the highway in cruise control mode, Super Cruise will allow the driver to remove their hands from the wheel, effectively automating highway driving.
In a demonstration with Autoblog, a Cadillac engineer said that Super Cruise is capable of bringing the car to a dead stop, then back up to the pre-set speed, all based on the actions on the car ahead of it and all without driver intervention. The Super Cruise function is a part of GM’s broader V2V platform, or Vehicle-to-Vehicle, which also encompasses an array of tricks including the mitigation of many traffic collisions and improve traffic congestion by sending and receiving basic safety information such as location, speed, and direction of travel between vehicles that are approaching each other, GM said.
The company also cited a recent National Highway Traffic Safety Administration study, which has pegged the economic and societal impact of motor vehicle accidents in the United States at more than $870 billion on an annual basis. Using vehicle to vehicle communications could help reduce those accidents caused by routine driver neglect, which make up a large portion of most accidents.
Autonomous driving, like everything else, has its share of critics who argue that relinquishing too much control to a car’s onboard computers could actually be more dangerous in the event that the computer fails. However, that argument is countered by saying that on a national level, the rate of human error would vastly outweigh the failure of a car’s internal software.
The other side of GM’s V2V platform is easing congestion, which is a hugely detrimental force around cities and urban areas. Once the wasted fuel from stop-go traffic, the lost time of the drivers and occupants, and the toll of a stagnant commute are accounted for, traffic congestion — again, on a national level — has the potential to land a solid blow on a region’s economic activity.
For its part, GM has a lot of ground to make up in terms of how the public perceives its record for safety. A program such as this must be absolutely flawless upon arrival for GM’s name to bear a chance at being salvaged after its recall string amounting to nearly 30 million vehicles made it a target for public ire when it was revealed that the problems had been simmering beneath the surface for over a decade.