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Auto review: Cadillac says hands-free driving with its Super Cruise system is 'like riding a monorail.' We try it

Charles Fleming, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Automotive News

Finally, if the driver doesn't respond at all -- because he or she is sleeping, say, or having a medical emergency -- the system will slow the car down gradually, bring it to a stop, put on the emergency flashers and call 911.

The restrictions are very specific. Super Cruise works only on "limited access" highways -- those that have on-ramps and off-ramps, and don't have any cross traffic. The system will engage only when the car is in the dead center of the lane, and the adaptive cruise control is engaged, and only above a certain speed.

The system relinquishes steering duties when the driver needs to make a lane change, merge from one freeway to another or exit a freeway.

Under the right conditions, it works pretty well. During a mid-afternoon drive, on three different freeways, Super Cruise took the wheel and the adaptive cruise control worked all the pedals as traffic slowed, stopped, stalled and started up again.

"You're still the supervisor, but you could drive from Santa Monica to Irvine without once having to touch the wheel," Ghering said.

Unlike Tesla's Autopilot driver assist program, Super Cruise does not integrate with the onboard navigation system, and can be initiated only when driving conditions are met and the driver, prompted by an icon on the dashboard, pushes a button on the steering wheel.

The Super Cruise system will be standard on the 2018 CT6 Platinum and is offered as a $5,000 upgrade on the CT6 Premium Luxury, as part of a suite of driver assist and safety features. It is not available on lower trim-level CT6s.

Ghering said it was likely the system would be offered on other GM vehicles in the future in the U.S. It will start appearing on CT6 sedans sold in China by 2019.

Cadillac faces a marketing challenge. Super Cruise, as a self-driving system that is likelier to appeal to younger drivers comfortable with cutting-edge technology, must be made appealing to the older consumers who typically patronize the Cadillac nameplate.

The GM division said this week that its September sales were up 16 percent globally over the same month in 2016, representing a 16-month run of consecutive growth. Year to date, the company has sold 256,613 vehicles.

But those improvements were largely in China, where sales were up 37 percent. Sales in the U.S. rose just 1.1 percent during the same period.

About The Writer

Charles Fleming writes about automobiles and motorcycles for the Los Angeles Times' Business section. Readers may send him email at charles.fleming@latimes.com.

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