California Dolphin: statewide California news

Hands-free driving feature hitting SD roads

ESCONDIDO, Calif. (KGTV) - With studies showing San Diegans are spending more time than ever stuck in traffic, we're listening and looking for answers to your travel headaches. A new technology being hailed as a "game changer" by some experts takes aims at those achy, tiresome commutes.  Cadillac's Super Cruise, the only hands-free semi-autonomous driving feature on the highways, is now on local roads. 10News reporter Michael Chen went to North County Cadillac and took a long for a test drive in the CT6 sedan on I-15. Once on the highway, the feature was activated with the push of a button on the steering wheel.  The feature allows the driver to go feet- and hands-free as long as you stay in one lane.  "If someone slows down in front of me, it will slow down our speed," said Drew Doran. While other driver-assistance systems use cameras to center a car, Doran says General Motors has extensive laser mapping of US highways that leads to better accuracy. "It actually knows what is ahead of the vehicle," said Doran.   On the hour-long drive, we tracked every curve and every time, it stayed in the center of the lane. The driver still expected to be on standby.  A camera on the steering wheel watches for distractions.  If the driver is doing something like reading and blocking that camera, it will warn the driver. When we blocked the camera, a green light flashed - the first of several alerts - before Super Cruise disengaged.  Doran says he recently went on a trip to Los Angeles with his wife.  He says he used Super Cruise for about 80% of a drive that left him feeling relaxed.     "Not the usual back pain.  I actually felt wonderful," said Doran. The Cadillac CT6 will cost you about $90,000, but industry experts says GM could deploy the well-received Super Cruise in vehicles priced around $40,000 starting next year. AUTONOMOUS VS. SEMI-AUTONOMOUS Popular Science has a breakdown between the different steps a car can make without human interaction.

Level 0: The driver controls all steps of operating a car.
Level 1: The driver makes all decisions but gets assistance from features like cruise control.
Level 2: The car makes some assistive changes, like adaptive cruise control, which adjusts speed based on the road conditions it senses.
Level 3: This level includes “auto pilot” modes like those in Teslas. The car is capable of making most driving decisions but still needs a human driver to make a decision occasionally.
Level 4: The car drives itself but needs consistent conditions and familiar territory for its guidance systems.
Level 5: The car can drive itself and navigate every situation.

While fully autonomous cars are in testing, semi-autonomous competitors to the Super Cruise include the Audi Traffic Jam Pilot, BMW Traffic Jam Assistant, Nissan/Infiniti ProPilot, Mercedes Benz Drive Pilot, Tesla Autopilot, and Volvo Pilot Assist.

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