Cadillac's Super Cruise is the best driver assist system, says Consumer Reports

October 28, 2020

When it comes to helping you drive, one system guides better than all the rest and it is Cadillac's Super Cruise, Consumer Reports announced on Wednesday.

The non-profit consumer advocacy group tested 17 advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) to determine which ones best helped the driver on long highway road trips or in stop-and-go traffic. The study focused on two specific components and how they work in concert to enable the driver to take her hands off the wheel for brief intervals of time. Adaptive cruise control maintains a set speed like regular cruise control, but can brake and accelerate based on maintaining a set distance from traffic in front of the car; active lane control consists of cameras and/or sensors that help read the road lines and neighboring traffic to torque the steering wheel and keep the car centered in its lane, or, with some systems, able to change lanes once the indicator is activated. 

The presence of ADAS as standard or optional equipment has proliferated recently. Two years ago, when Consumer Reports first launched this type of study, they tested only four systems from Cadillac, Tesla, Volvo, and Nissan/Infiniti. Now, automakers ranging from Subaru to Land Rover utilize the systems. 

“Even with new systems from many different automakers, Super Cruise still comes out on top due to the infrared camera ensuring the driver’s eyes are looking toward the roadway,” Kelly Funkhouser, CR’s head of connected and automated vehicle testing, said in a statement. 

Cadillac Super Cruise with automatic lane change

Cadillac Super Cruise with automatic lane change

Cadillac Super Cruise

Cadillac Super Cruise

Cadillac Super Cruise

Cadillac Super Cruise

Cadillac Super Cruise

Cadillac Super Cruise

Most of these systems are considered Level 2 by the Society of Automotive Engineers, though Super Cruise and its ability to monitor the driver's attention can have some characteristics of Level 3. To be clear, there are no such thing as self-driving cars legally sold for use on roads today, and the driver assistance systems studied require the presence of a driver to make regular intervention. A fully self-driving car would be considered Level 5. 

This ability to monitor the driver with a camera on the steering wheel facing the driver ensures that the operator can't rely solely on the technology and has to be paying attention. If the driver were to nod off, or drop her eyes to her lap, the monitor illuminates a red light in the steering wheel and other visual and audible warnings. If the driver doesn't react and take over, the system will slow the car down, activate the hazards, eventually come to a stop, and call for help.

“It’s critical for active driving assistance systems to come with safety features that actually verify drivers are paying attention and are ready to take action at all times," William Wallace, manager of safety policy for Consumer Reports, said. "Otherwise, these systems’ safety risks could end up outweighing their benefits.” 

The 17 vehicle systems endured 36 tests both in closed testing grounds at CR and on public roads between June and September of this year. The tests were then organized into five categories: capability and performance; keeping the driver engaged; ease of use; clear when safe to use; and unresponsive driver. 

The categories and subsequent results show that not all systems perform the same, and some are better at one thing and worse at another. Tesla's AutoPilot ranked a distant second behind Super Cruise, yet its active lane control did the best at staying in its lane. Systems from Audi, Cadillac, and Lincoln were almost as good. Each category got a best-out-of 10 score, then total score was weighted out of 100. Here's the top 5. 

1. Cadillac Super Cruise in the 2020 CT6

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Overall score: 69

Performed best in: Unresponsive Driver earned a 9 for its monitoring system, and Keeping the Driver engaged ranked at 7, which was nearly double the next performer. 

Performed worst in: Ease of Use. 

2. Tesla Autopilot in the 2020 Model Y

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Overall score: 57

Performed best in: Capabilities and Performance earned a 9 for maintaining the lane and smooth speed adjustments based on other cars. It was also easiest to use by rating a top 7 in Ease of Use.  

Performed worst in: It rated a 2 in Clear When Safe to Use because it was capable of being used in residential and other high-risk areas. 

3. Lincoln/Ford Co-Pilot 360 in the 2020 Lincoln Corsair

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Overall score: 52

Performed best in: Capabilities and Performance at an 8. 

Performed worst in: Middling grades in the rest. 

4. Audi Pre-sense in the Audi E-Tron

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Overall score: 48

Performed best in: Unresponsive Driver at a 6.  

Performed worst in: Clear When Safe to Use at a 2. 

5t. Hyundai Smart Sense/Kia Drive Wise in the 2020 Hyundai Palisade

Overall score: 46

Performed best in: Average in most categories. 

Performed worst in: Unresponsive Driver at a 4. 

5t. Mercedes-Benz Driver Assistance in the GLS 450

Overall score: 46

Performed best in: Capabilities and Performance at an 6.

Performed worst in: Clear When Safe to Use at a 2

5t. Subaru Eyesight in the 2020 Subaru Outback

Overall score: 46

Performed best in: Capabilities and Performance at an 7.

Performed worst in: Ease of Use at a 3. 

BMW, Porsche, Volvo, Honda/Acura, Nissan/Infiniti, and Toyota/Lexus finished with at least a 40. Volkswagen, Buick/Chevy, and Land Rover were in the 30s, and Mazda brought up the rear with a 27. 

For the full report, visit Consumer Reports

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