Super Cruise systems have found yet another innovative function.
General Motors has filed a patent application for an automatic wheel alignment detection system for a vehicle. CarBuzz discovered the patent, filed with the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
The good news is that most of GM's high-end cars are already equipped with the necessary bits and pieces, so all this patent requires is a few thousand lines of coding. The first step in the process is using Inertial Measurement Units (IMU) to detect whether there's an "event" that may cause wheel misalignment. These sensors are scattered across any modern car. A prime example is the IMU located in an airbag sensor. It determines the severity of an accident and whether the airbag should be deployed, and it can also be used to detect minor impacts.
This is patent language for anything that might have an impact on wheel alignment, such as driving through a pothole, hitting a speed bump at a high speed, defective suspension components, and even a minor fender bender.
To determine whether a wheel alignment check is necessary, the magnitude of the force exerted on the vehicle will be measured, and if it falls in between two predetermined values, the car will notify its owner that a wheel alignment test is needed.
According to the patent application, the alignment test can be done autonomously or semi-autonomously. Any car equipped with GM's latest version of Super Cruise, which allows for hands-free driving, should be able to do it. We'll use the Cadillac Escalade as an example. If the owner gives the car permission to conduct the test, it will set a chart with a preferably straight path, and the various sensors, cameras, and IMUs will keep an eye on the car. If the path offset is more than a predetermined value, a physical wheel alignment check and fix is required. In the semi-autonomous mode, the car will instruct the driver to complete a series of predetermined tasks to gain the same data.
While the car is conducting the test, the infotainment screen will display the set course and any possible offset to the driver.
Once the car determines that there is a wheel alignment flaw, it will ask the driver whether they want to fix the issue now or at a later date. If the driver says yes, the connected features will find the nearest auto shop and set the navigation. If the driver says no, the car will provide a reminder at a predetermined interval, like every time you start the vehicle.
Why is a system like this necessary? According to General Motors, it extends vehicle and tire life. It's one of the most common car problems, and it's pretty easy to identify if you've been driving for years. Symptoms include restless and noisy steering, the car pulling in one direction, and uneven tire wear. It's also one of those once-a-year checks you must do on a car, but we all know that 99% of drivers don't follow an optimal car maintenance schedule.
A system like this will be beneficial across GM's vast product range, but especially in high-performance cars like the Corvette. Poor wheel alignment has a drastic impact on tire wear, wheel balance, suspension components, and braking.