Back in 2017, General Motors GM -1.7% launched the first hands-free driver assist system, Super Cruise. At the time, it was restricted to use on more than 130,000 miles of divided highways across the United States and Canada. Over the past five years, the available roads where the system can be engaged has expanded to about 200,000 miles. By the end of 2022, most Super Cruise equipped vehicles will see another expansion that almost doubles that network to 400,000 roads.
GM restricts the roads that Super Cruise can be activated on using high definition laser scanned maps provided by Ushr. The maps contain data about the road contours and topography, speed limits, lane configurations and more. Tesla TSLA +1.1% which allows AutoPilot to be activated anywhere despite instructing drivers in the manual to only use the system on divided highways. GM opted not to take chances on misuse and relies on the maps to geofence the system.
Since expanding to 200,000 miles, the maps also included so-called trunk roads, divided highways that may have intersections or traffic signals. Even at 200,000 miles, most of the available roads were across the eastern half of the country and up the west coast with some coverage in southern parts of Canada. Much of the western US except for the coastal area has sparse coverage limited to interstate highways.
The new expansion adds in many two-lane rural roads across the country and now provides more comprehensive coverage in the rural west. Some of the new roads that will be available include Route 66, the Pacific Coast Highway – California Route 1 and the Trans Canada Highway.
The full expansion will only be available on vehicles that have the second-generation version of Super Cruise running on GM’s Vehicle Intelligence Platform (VIP) electrical architecture. This includes the Cadillac Escalade, CT4, CT5, Lyriq, Chevy Silverado, Tahoe, and GMC Sierra and Yukon. The Chevrolet Bolt EUV and Cadillac XT XT 0.0%6 still run the first generation version and will only get a subset of the updated roads.
While the expanded maps will enable Super Cruise to be used in more places than before, it will also mean that there is a reduced feature set on many of the new roads. For example, GM does not include the ability to respond to traffic signals the way that Tesla’s “full self-driving” beta software does. Instead, Super Cruise uses the map as a long range sensor. When a traffic signal or stop sign is detected on the road, Super Cruise will alert the driver to take over control of the wheel. On VIP-equipped models, drivers will get about 500 m warning while drivers of non-VIP models will get about 350 m to take control. If the driver doesn’t take the wheel, the vehicle will slow down and stop if needed.
Another feature of the latest generation of Super Cruise is lane change on demand and automatic overtaking. When using Super Cruise on a two-lane road or even a road with a center turn lane, the lane changing functionality is disabled. Towing with Super Cruise will still be available on any of the 400,000 miles of roads.
GM will start rolling out the software update this fall on new vehicles built with Super Cruise and existing vehicles will get an over-the-air update that starts going out sometime in the fourth quarter of 2022. There won’t be any charge for the upgrade and GM has said it will start increasing the cadence of updates from quarterly to monthly following this major update.
With this addition, it’s unlikely that there will be many more major upgrades to Super Cruise. The more capable Ultra Cruise is still on target to debut in 2023 with hands-free capability on city streets as well as the ability to navigate from point to point hands-free. Ultra Cruise will have upgraded sensors including lidar and possibly imaging radar along with higher resolution cameras and a more powerful version of the Qualcomm Snapdragon Ride compute platform.