Cadillac's Super Cruise technology aims to raise the bar when it comes to semi-autonomous driving technology.
Remember the time when you rode your bike with no hands on the handlebars? The freedom you felt, trusting your balance and your bike to not throw you off at any minute? Okay, so it might not be exactly the same, but Cadillac’s Super Cruise adaptive cruise control aims to take out some of the fatigue of being behind the wheel and let the vehicle control the gas, brakes, and steering - only asking you to monitor the system just in case.
Super Cruise is Cadillac’s brand for its new semi-autonomous advanced adaptive cruise control technology. In principle, it works similarly to Tesla’s Autopilot system - it can steer, brake, and accelerate using the vehicle’s computer and sensors. Cadillac’s claim to fame is that you can take your hands off the steering wheel while Super Cruise is active; in comparison, Autopilot requires hands on the wheel or the system will self-cancel.
Disclosure: General Motors provided a 2019 Cadillac CT6 equipped with Super Cruise. Since the CT6 went out of production in January 2020, our review covers the Super Cruise feature exclusively.
Super Cruise works if certain parameters are met:
- OnStar subscription is active on your vehicle
- Adaptive cruise control is active
- Forward collision system is set to alert and brake
- Teen Driver feature is turned off
Once those initial parameters are met, the vehicle will then consider the following:
- The highway compatible and has been mapped out (more on that later)
- Driver Attention Camera system recognizes you are paying attention to the road and looking forward
- Highways markings are clearly visible
- Exterior camera and sensors are not obstructed or damaged
Super Cruise takes the cautionary approach of semi-autonomous driving being available only on proven roads. Though there isn't much publicity about this fact, GM's engineers mapped out hundreds of thousands of miles of US highways and added them to the Super Cruise database. This allows Super Cruise to "know" the roads it will be used on rather than relying on highway markings. Other systems on the market, such as Tesla’s AutoPilot, seem to go the test/retest, and test/retest again approach with real-world drivers playing the part of the beta testers.
Cadillac provided a CT6 equipped with Super Cruise to take for a weekend trip from Orange County, CA to San Diego. The drive consists of approximately 100 miles one-way on the 5 freeway. Cadillac provides a Super Cruise map that shows all of the compatible freeways and highways - you can find it on the Super Cruise website. Luckily, the entire trip was mapped, providing the perfect opportunity to test its capabilities.
To activate Super Cruise while driving on the highway, begin by pressing the adaptive cruise control button on the steering wheel. Once Super Cruise determines that the vehicle is on a compatible highway, a white steering wheel icon will display in the instrument cluster. When that appears, press the Super Cruise button and look for the light on the top portion of the steering wheel rim to illuminate green.
The entire process was easy and intuitive - I had no trouble engaging the system. Super Cruise deftly took over after I had set my desired speed. Unlike many other adaptive cruise control systems on the market today, there was a notable lack of ping-pong action between the lane markings. Braking was also very smooth, but Super Cruise seems to have a tendency to decelerate at a more aggressive pace than most drivers would be comfortable with. As with many other cruise control systems, it takes a while for the vehicle to accelerate back up to cruising speed - I noticed drivers behind me changing lanes to pass, presumably because they were unimpressed with Super Cruise's lack of urgency. Every now and then, the system would disengage at freeway intersections or on random portions of the road. It was only temporary, though - after a minute or so, the green light on the steering wheel rim would illuminate again and Super Cruise would resume operation.
Super Cruise works exactly as Cadillac claims, providing hands-free driving with an abundance of caution built into the system. Although Tesla’s Autopilot provides more features such as automatic lane changes and the ability to engage it on city streets, Super Cruise seems more thought out and lacks the "beta test" nature of its competitors. GM's notoriously conservative engineering philosophy meant Super Cruise could not be released to the public until it was deemed completely safe, and at no point did Super Cruise throw any curve balls or provide any unwelcome surprises. It would be nice to eventually see Super Cruise usable on city streets, but until then, it's easily one of the best highway cruise systems on the market today. Cadillac also states that an automated lane change functionality will be added to the enhanced version of Super Cruise at a later date, which will make it even more competitive against similar systems.
Super Cruise was originally only available on the Cadillac CT6, which was sadly discontinued earlier this year. The system will begin to roll out to more models such as the CT4, CT5, and Escalade in the coming months, and will eventually become available as an option throughout GM's other brands.