A year ago, Toyota announced plans to sell autonomous cars -- or at least semi-autonomous cars -- by the mid-2010s. Tesla expects to launch similar models around the same time, and Google could be operating on an even zippier production schedule.
But what about Detroit? At least one domestic brand has confirmed that it will offer "intelligent and connected" technologies in late 2016 on select 2017 model-year vehicles: Cadillac.
The news came Sunday from General Motors CEO Mary Barra. During a keynote speech at the Intelligent Transport System World Congress, she said:
"A tide of innovation has invigorated the global auto industry, and we are taking these giant leaps forward to remain a leader of new technology. We are not doing this for the sake of the technology itself. We’re doing it because it’s what customers around the world want. Through technology and innovation, we will make driving safer."
That technology will come in two high-tech packages: Super Cruise and vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communications.
Super Cruise is the working title of GM's autonomous technology suite. It includes features comparable to adaptive cruise control, which allows motorists to set a highway speed, then the vehicle accelerates and brakes in response to surrounding traffic. As you'll see from the demo video above, it's similar to, say, Volvo's SARTRE "road train" system, but users don't need to sign up for a convoy, they simply turn on the Super Cruise feature in their own vehicle and go.
In other words, Super Cruise allows drivers to enjoy autonomous car features in the vacuum of their own vehicle. By adding V2V to the mix, however, Super Cruise's features become enhanced and expanded.
As with other V2V systems, Cadillac's promises to communicate with other cars and, potentially, traffic lights and other traffic infrastructure. That allows Cadillac to leverage the power of multiple computers instead of just one. For example, if a vehicle several cars ahead of a Cadillac stops short, that vehicle and others in-between can notify the Cadillac, giving the Super Cruise system a few more fractions of a second to put on the brakes. Without V2V, Super Cruise wouldn't know to stop the Cadillac until the car directly ahead of it began braking.
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, offerings like Super Cruise and V2V could "reduce, mitigate, or prevent 81% of light-vehicle crashes by unimpaired drivers".
Unfortunately for tech fiends, Super Cruise and V2V won't appear simultaneously across the Caddy lineup. According to GM, Super Cruise is slated to appear on an "all-new 2017 Cadillac", while V2V will come on the 2017 Cadillac CTS. We'll provide updates as they become available in the coming months.