GM Introduces The Next Step In Hands-Free Driving

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Ultra Cruise will work on 3.4 million miles of the existing road network.

General Motors has just revealed its new Ultra Cruise advanced driver assistance technology. GM says this is its next step toward achieving its lofty goals of zero crashes, zero emissions, and zero congestion.

GM is already well on track, following the recent introduction of its Ultifi end-to-end platform. It's also five years ahead of the initial date that was set for using only renewable energy. Ultra Cruise is designed to provide hands-free driving in 95% of all driving scenarios. According to GM, Ultra Cruise will eventually work on every paved road in the USA and Canada.

Ultra Cruise will cover more than 2 million miles of US and Canadian roads when it's launched. It can grow up to more than 3.4 million miles. The technology will work on highways, city streets, subdivisions, and paved rural roads.

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"Ultra Cruise is not just a game-changer in terms of what it enables ­- a door-to-door hands-free driving experience - but a technological one as well," said Doug Parks, GM executive vice president of Global Product Development, Purchasing and Supply Chain. "It's been developed completely in-house."

Ultra Cruise will coexist with GM's current Super Cruise feature. Super Cruise will be available on mainstream models like the Chevrolet Tahoe, while Ultra Cruise will be equipped on premium cars like the Cadillac Lyriq and Celestiq. GM has confirmed that Cadillac will be the first brand to use the tech when it arrives in the first GM models in 2023.

"The combination of Ultra Cruise for premium offerings and Super Cruise for lower-cost products will enable us to offer driver-assist technology across price points and segments," said Parks.

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In essence, Ultra Cruise is a more advanced version of Super Cruise. GM used Super Cruise as a basis and then built in added functionality. Ultra Cruise can also be upgraded via over-the-air updates, which means GM can add more features in the future.

Currently, GM intends Ultra Cruise to react to permanent traffic control devices, follow navigation routes, maintain the speed limit and following distance, support automatic and on-demand lane changes, support left and right-hand turns, avoid close objects and park in residential areas.

Another unique feature is the ability to recognize and record flaws. This will trigger data recordings which GM will use to improve the system.

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Ultra Cruise hardware includes cameras, radars, and LiDAR. Combined, this hardware can create a 3D rendering of a car and its surroundings. "We believe that the combination of different sensors, or sensor fusion, leads to the most robust hands-free driver-assist system for our customers," said Parks.

As you can imagine, the driver needs to have some display to see what Ultra Cruise is up to. GM will equip these cars with a display directly in the driver's line of sight. Not only will this help drivers maintain focus on the road, but it will also confirm that Ultra Cruise is seeing what the driver is seeing.

It's going to be interesting to see how Ultra Cruise compares to Tesla's Full Self-Driving suite. A select number of Tesla owners are currently beta-testing, and it doesn't appear to be going very well.

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