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Mark Phelan: Cadillac reinvents driving with system that steers car for long distances

Mark Phelan, Detroit Free Press on

Published in Business News

The J. Geils Band is playing "Detroit Breakdown" on the Bose audio, but it's all good. I've got Cadillac's Super Cruise semi-autonomous driving system under the hood, and 1,100 miles of highway ahead of me between the Gulf Coast and the Great Lakes.

Boogie on, self-driving Caddy.

This is my second experience with the Super Cruise, but the earlier drive was much shorter.

Before the engineers and lawyers jump all over me: "Self-driving" is a slight overstatement, but it's hard not to be excited by Super Cruise's performance and potential.

The 2018 Cadillac CT6 doesn't quite drive itself, but it comes closer than you might imagine, and I enjoyed the results more than I could have expected. Over the course of 2,300 miles in a recent drive from Detroit to New Orleans and back, Super Cruise showed that it's a major step toward fully autonomous vehicles that require no human intervention. Its radars, cameras and electronically controlled brakes, acceleration and steering allowed the 2018 Cadillac CT6 luxury sedan to virtually drive itself for nearly 90 percent of the trip.

This is not a dream "someday, cars will drive themselves" feature. Super Cruise is available now. It's standard on the top of the line $84,295 CT6 Platinum and a $5,000 option on the $65,295 CT6 Premium Luxury.

Expect Cadillac to add Super Cruise to other vehicles quickly, and GM to roll the feature out across its three other brands.

Super Cruise works on restricted access highways in the U.S. and Canada. Essentially, it steers the car from the time you leave the entrance ramp until you're ready to exit the highway.

Super Cruise accelerates and brakes to keep pace with other vehicles or hold any speed you set up to 85 mph. The driver has to touch the steering wheel briefly to change lanes, and take full control in some construction zones and on surface roads with traffic, stop lights and other things. A face-recognition system watches to makes sure you're not asleep, slumped over or completely ignoring the road.

GM developed effective driver alerts for Super Cruise. The flashing red light on the steering wheel and vibrating driver seat got my attention quickly whenever I looked away from the road too long.

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