GM Announces ‘Ultra Cruise', its All-New Autonomous Driving Feature That Will Enable Hands-Free Driving on All Public Paved Roads in the U.S. & Canada

GM Announces ‘Ultra Cruise', its All-New Autonomous Driving Feature That Will Enable Hands-Free Driving on All Public Paved Roads in the U.S. & Canada

Author: Eric Walz   

Automaker General Motors kicked off its two-day investor event on Wednesday with some major new announcements, including the unveiling of an all-new updated version of its hands-free autonomous driving feature Super Cruise.

GM's latest and more advanced autonomous driving technology will be called "Ultra Cruise" and its represents the next step in the company's vision of a world with zero crashes, zero emissions and zero congestion. 

GM says Ultra Cruise will ultimately enable hands-free driving in 95% of all driving scenarios and can be used on virtually every paved road in the U.S. and Canada.

At launch, Ultra Cruise will be made available on more than 2 million miles of roads in North America when it launches. However the system will have the capacity to include roughly 3.4 million miles of roads as it's continuously updated. 

According to GM, drivers will be able to travel "hands free" on nearly every road including city streets, subdivision streets and paved rural roads, in addition to highways.

"Ultra Cruise is not just a game changer in terms of what it enables, a door-to-door hands-free driving experience, but a technological one as well," said Doug Parks, GM executive vice president of Global Product Development, Purchasing and Supply Chain. "It's been developed completely in-house."

Super Cruise is not going away entirely though. It will coexist along with Ultra Cruise, with the latter being reserved for GM's premium models, like the Cadillac Lyriq. Supercruise will be offered in more budget friendly GM models.

"The combination of Ultra Cruise for premium offerings and Super Cruise for lower-cost products will enable us to offer driver-assist technology across price points and segments," said Parks.

Ultra Cruise is powered by a scalable compute architecture that's future-proofed through the Ultifi software platform and GM's new Vehicle Intelligence Platform, according to the automaker. Ultra Cruise will also get better over time via regular over-the-air software updates.

Ultra Cruise builds on the capabilities of Super Cruise with new automated driving features that will provide users with information based on their experience with the system through an all-new dynamic display.

Ultra Cruise features full 360-degree perception around the vehicle. The hardware will include a combination of cameras, radars and LiDAR, to render a highly accurate, 360-degree 3D representation of the environment around the vehicle. For added safety, GM will add redundancies in critical areas.

Ultra Cruise also incorporates an integrated LiDAR mounted behind the windshield.

"We believe that the combination of different sensors, or sensor fusion, leads to the most robust hands-free driver-assist system for our customers," said Parks.

Ultra Cruise will support automatic and on-demand lane changes, recognize traffic lights, follow posted speed limits, perform left and right-hand turns, avoid obstacles, as well as performing automated parking in residential driveways.

The entire system will be smart and get better over time. Diagnostic and learning systems will automatically identify scenarios where Ultra Cruise might not perform as well as needed. In these edge cases, the vehicle will trigger data recordings which will be processed through GM's cloud-based data ecosystem for continuous improvement of the system.


Human-Machine Interface (HMI)

A key component of Ultra Cruise is its Human Machine Interface (HMI) in the form of a Ultra Cruise Dynamic Display. The display presents information to the driver and communicates when they need to be in control of the vehicle. The HMI also shows drivers that they and the autonomous driving system are seeing the same thing on the road ahead.

The display will be directly in the driver's line of sight to help drivers stay focused on the road ahead.

Ultra Cruise's HMI strategy also includes helping the driver to stay engaged behind the wheel, rather than the vehicle taking full control. This will ensure that the driver is ready to take control of the vehicle, if required. 

The existing Super Cruise Driver Attention Camera system will be carried over to Ultra Cruise-equipped vehicles.

GM is also developing an Ultra Cruise app that it says will be viewable in the center display of Ultra Cruise-equipped vehicles. However,the app will only be accessible when the vehicle is parked. It will provide more centrally located information, including driver's statistics, trips and history, GM said.

Ultra Cruise will join GM's lineup of hands-free advanced driver-assist systems on select models in 2023. It will debut in Cadillac models then expand to other GM vehicles.

Eric Walz
Eric Walz
Originally hailing from New Jersey, Eric is a automotive & technology reporter covering the high-tech industry here in Silicon Valley. He has over 15 years of automotive experience and a bachelors degree in computer science. These skills, combined with technical writing and news reporting, allows him to fully understand and identify new and innovative technologies in the auto industry and beyond. He has worked at Uber on self-driving cars and as a technical writer, helping people to understand and work with technology.
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