As a (non-native) New Yorker, I obviously don’t drive anymore — nor do I miss the annoyances that come with owning a car.
But I do miss two things about being behind the wheel: singing along with the radio at the top of my lungs and cruising down a long stretch of highway.
Luckily, last week I got the chance to do the latter thanks to an invite from Cadillac to test out its new Super Cruise technology, which is available in the 2018 CT6 that’s hitting dealerships this week.
Super Cruise was in development for five-plus years and is the “next level up from cruise control,” said Cadillac CT6’s Launch & Lifecycle Marketing Manager Eric Angeloro.
Cadillac is touting the technology as the “first true hands-free driving technology for the freeway,” and it was like nothing I ever experienced as I took a joyride with Angeloro from Cadillac’s global headquarters in SoHo down the New Jersey Turnpike.
Here’s how Cadillac’s Super Cruise works
First of all, Super Cruise isn’t autopilot. Nor is it carte blanche to catch up on your texts, emails or the latest episode of “This Is Us.”
You might not have your hands on the steering wheel or your foot on the pedals, but your eyes must still remain on the road for all but a few seconds before the system starts sassing you (but I’ll get to that).
Super Cruise becomes available once you have engaged adapted cruise control on what the automaker deems a “divided, limited-access freeway” with defined on- and off-ramps. The car will know it’s on such a road thanks to GPS and LiDAR mapping data, which mapped 160,000 miles of highways in the U.S. and Canada.
When the Super Cruise icon on the dash turned white, I turned the technology on via its steering wheel button, and Angeloro encouraged me to sit back and relax.
Since I often used cruise control in my trusty old Ford Focus, taking my foot off the pedals was easy, but the steering wheel? Not so much. Once I worked up the nerve, the car took over, never once veering from the center of my lane, even as the road curved.
After I felt comfortable, it was time to look away from the road to test the CT6’s Driver Attention System. This took a bit of bravery as, you know, the key to driving is keeping your eyes on the road.
But there I was glancing, at first quickly, out the driver’s side window until the car’s first warning came, and Super Cruise’s steering wheel bar went from solid green to flashing. I merely touched the wheel again, and all was OK.
How did the car know I wasn’t paying attention, you ask? There is a tiny camera mounted on the steering wheel that tracks a driver’s eye movements and head position. The camera only turns on when Super Cruise is engaged and does not record.
On the way back to the city, I pushed Super Cruise to the max, looking out the window until the steering wheel bar turned red, my seat vibrated and a voice prompt told me to take control, which I did — and was then locked out of Super Cruise for the remainder of the ride. (The function would become available again when the car was turned off and on).
Had I not taken control, all of the above would’ve occurred and the CT6 would’ve put its hazards on, slowed itself down gradually in its lane and come to a stop. If at that point a driver doesn’t make contact with the car, it will alert OnStar to send help.
“Imagine if an emergency happened without this,” Angeloro said. Um, no thank you.
Despite locking myself out of Super Cruise, Angeloro said I was the best test driver he ever rode with, and I didn’t even treat him to my singing.
Super Cruise comes standard on CT6 Platinum, which starts at $85,290. It is also available as a $5,000 option for the CT6 Premium Luxury, which starts at $71,905.
"While we cannot comment on future products, we are very proud of Super Cruise and view it as a stepping stone for future technology," Chief Engineer Lyndon Lie said when asked if it will roll out on other Cadillac and GM models.