What just happened? General Motors has introduced its next-generation driver-assistance technology, which it claims will ultimately enable hands-free driving in 95 percent of all driving scenarios. It’s called Ultra Cruise, and GM believes it’ll eventually be able to be used on every paved road across the US and Canada.
At launch, Ultra Cruise will be usable on more than two million miles of roads. In addition to highways, the tech will allow drivers to travel “truly hands free” across most city streets, subdivision roads and paved rural roads, we’re told.
As you may know, GM already has an advanced driver-assist system called Super Cruise. According to GM, both will coexist in the company’s lineup, with Super Cruise designated for mainstream models and Ultra Cruise reserved for premium vehicles.
Doug Parks, GM executive VP of global product development, purchasing and supply chain, said the combination of Ultra Cruise for premium offerings and Super Cruise for lower-cost products will enable them to offer driver-assist technology across multiple price points and segments.
GM said Ultra Cruise will build on the capabilities of Super Cruise, adding new features such as the ability to react to permanent traffic control devices, follow internal navigation routes and park in residential driveways. It’ll be powered by a 5nm scalable compute architecture alongside a combination of cameras, radars and LiDAR, which GM says is “future-proofed” through the use of the Ultifi software platform and Vehicle Intelligence Platform. The Driver Attention Camera system from the Super Cruise system will also carry over to Ultra Cruise.
That’s a bold claim on GM’s part. Future proofing anything, especially through software, is tough because hardware is constantly evolving. Even with modular hardware, the physical interfaces are going to evolve, eventually rendering the entire platform obsolete. Software updates could extend usability slightly, but to think that these early-stage driving systems will persist through a vehicle's typical lifespan seems like a stretch.
GM's Cadillac brand will be the first to implement Ultra Cruise starting in 2023.