By Jerry Hirsch, September 7, 2014
In this GM illustration, cars share data through vehicle-to-vehicle
communication technology to keep a safe driving distance between them.
General Motors plans to start selling cars that can drive partially in
an auto-pilot mode and that can exchange speed and safety data with
similarly equipped vehicles.
The first features are expected to
show up in high-end Cadillac vehicles for the 2017 model year -- in
about two years -- but over time will move down market into GM’s other
“Everyone recognizes that when cars can talk to each other
and share information about speed, direction, operating performance and
more, we'll save lives, save time and save money as well,” said Mary
Barra, GM’s chief executive, in a speech to the Intelligent Transport
Systems World Congress in Detroit on Sunday.
Barra talked about two initiatives the automaker has launched to commercialize “intelligent” car technology.
GM is to offer what it is calling “Super Cruise” in a new Cadillac model that Barra didn’t name.
system will allow drivers to switch the vehicle into a semi-automated
mode in which it will automatically keep the car in its lane, making
necessary steering adjustments, and autonomously trigger braking and
speed control to maintain a safe distance from other vehicles.
Super Cruise, when there's a congestion alert on roads like
California's Santa Monica Freeway, you can let the car take over and
drive hands-free and feet-free through the worst stop-and-go traffic
around,” Barra said. “And if the mood strikes you on the high-speed road
from Barstow, California to Las Vegas, you can take a break from the
wheel and pedals and let the car do the work.”
Other automakers including Mercedes-Benz, Acura and Subaru have
started to put self-piloting functions in vehicles already on the U.S.
market. They use technology similar to what will go into the Cadillac
model but aren’t as expansive.
Both the Mercedes and Acura
vehicles, for example, will automatically keep a car in a lane for a
short period of time but will warn the driver to take control of the
steering wheel after five to 10 seconds. The vehicles also have sensors
that allow their cruise control systems to slow down and then speed up
to adjust to traffic conditions and maintain a safe distance behind a
car in front.
GM’s rivals also are working to develop their own partial auto-pilot systems.
Carlos Ghosn, chief executive of Nissan Motor Co. and Renault SA, has
said that by the end of 2016, Nissan will start to market cars that can
take over some driving functions, including a “traffic-jam pilot” that
enables the vehicle to safely drive autonomously on congested highways.
The Japanese automaker also plans to introduce cars that can
autonomously negotiate hazards and change lanes by 2018.
“GM is pushing the boundaries here,” said Thilo Koslowski, auto analyst
at Gartner Inc. “This is how the evolution to fully autonomous vehicles
GM and other automakers will have to see how
consumers take to these automated driving functions, Koslowski said, and
there will be other questions, such as how insurance companies will
deal with these cars. Some functions, such as systems that alert drivers
to potential collisions and trigger the brakes, are already proving to
reduce crashes, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
GM’s Super Cruise system and its plan to start selling cars that can
trade information with other vehicles is a reminder that the auto
industry is not willing to give up control of these innovations to
Google and other technology companies, Koslowski said.
big challenge on the road to fully automated driving is to tackle the
urban environment, where you have to dodge everything from jaywalkers
and bike messengers to double-parked delivery trucks,” Barra said.
GM CEO estimated that commercializing a fully automated vehicle may
take until the next decade, but that the work that’s going on now in the
auto industry is creating the building blocks for robotic cars.
this year, Google said it plans to test about 200 gumdrop-shaped,
two-seat, self-driving cars. The testing program is to start later this
year with a handful of early prototypes hitting the roads around the
tech giant’s Mountain View, Calif., headquarters.
first cars will have manual controls for the test drivers to override
the cars' autonomous driving systems, as required by current California
law. But Google plans to build the bulk of the cars as fully autonomous
-- no steering wheel, no gas or brake pedal.
Automakers, including Ford, Mercedes-Benz, Audi and Nissan also are testing full self-driving vehicles and autopilot technology.
2025, as many as 230,000 self-driving vehicles could be sold each year
globally, and that number could swell to 11.8 million a decade later,
according to a study released this year by IHS Automotive.
also announced that the 2017 model year Cadillac CTS will come equipped
with so called vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication technology.
enough autos on the highways have V2V communication, the technology is
expected to reduce collisions and improve traffic congestion. Cars will
send and receive basic safety information such as location, speed and
direction of travel between vehicles that are approaching each other.
The data exchange will warn drivers and trigger safety features, such as
forward collision warning systems.
The first Cadillacs sold with
V2V communication capability “will be very lonely cars in terms of
finding another car to talk to,” Koslowski said. But he said GM was
taking a “bold move” to tackle the chicken-or-egg question.
are doing this without any type of government mandate,” Koslowski said.
“They are saying it is time to move the technology forward and this will
motivate other manufacturers to follow suit.”
Although it will
take years to get enough vehicles on the road for such a system to pay
benefits, "it is a positive step," said Jeremy Carlson, an analyst with
IHS Automotive. "We need this type of buy-in from the industry.”