GM Unveils Ultra Cruise For Hands-Free Driving

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Image for article titled GM Says Its Ultra Cruise Can Do Hands-Free Driving In '95 Percent' Of Driving Situations

Photo: GM

Several weeks ago, I saw the new Cadillac Lyriq in person for the first time and asked the GM people there if the Lyriq might have Ultra Cruise, prompting them to look at me like I were an alien. “Ultra Cruise?” they said, seemingly unfamiliar with it, or pretending to be. I then made an awkward joke and changed the subject. Flash forward to Wednesday and GM has unveiled … Ultra Cruise.

It’s entirely possible the GM people did not know that Ultra Cruise would officially, really be a thing when I asked them about it in August, because when we first heard about it over a year ago now, “Ultra Cruise” was just an internal name. On Wednesday, though, GM said that would be the product’s external, real name, too, the next evolution of its semi-autonomous tech beyond Super Cruise.

The main difference between Super Cruise and Ultra Cruise seems to be that Ultra Cruise will cover more than just highways in the U.S. and Canada, a lot of which are already Super Cruise compatible. That means two million miles of roads, GM says, and up to 3.4 million miles of roads later, or, eventually “95 percent of driving scenarios.” Ultra Cruise users will be able to use it “across nearly every road including city streets, subdivision streets and paved rural roads, in addition to highways.”

Big if true, as they say. One interesting thing here is that GM says it will reserve Ultra Cruise for its “premium” cars — Cadillac and, probably, GMC — while Super Cruise will be for its “mainstream” cars, which are Chevys and, probably, Buicks. Your semi-autonomous future with GM is only if you can afford it.

Here’s other new stuff GM says comes with Ultra Cruise:

Ultra Cruise is powered by a 5-nanometer, scalable computer architecture future-proofed through the Ultifi software platform and Vehicle Intelligence Platform. Ultra Cruise can add features, functions and services over time through frequent over-the-air updates.

Ultra Cruise builds on the capabilities of Super Cruise with new automated driving features intended to:

  • Provide users with information based on their experience with the system through an all-new dynamic display
  • React to permanent traffic control devices
  • Follow internal navigation routes
  • Maintain headway; follow speed limits
  • Support automatic and on-demand lane change
  • Support left and right-hand turns
  • Support close object avoidance
  • Support parking in residential driveways
  • The system also features full 360-degree perception around the vehicle.

Smart diagnostic and learning systems automatically identify scenarios where Ultra Cruise needs upgrading, triggering data recordings in vehicles equipped with the service. These recordings will then be processed through GM’s back office data ecosystem for continuous improvement of the system.

That last bit sounds a lot like what Tesla is doing with full self-driving, though I’m sure GM would say it is totally different. Anyway, Ultra Cruise does all this with radar, LiDAR, and cameras, and will also have the driver attention camera that Super Cruise utilizes to make sure drivers’ eyes stay on the road. There is also something called the “Human-Machine Interface,” “through which the system presents information to the driver and communicates when they need to be in control of the vehicle.” That sounds like a screen and some haptic or audio outputs or both.

GM says Ultra Cruise will get here in 2023, and has me wondering what GM might name the next Cruise technology after Ultra. Hyper Cruise? Or maybe at that point — sometime late this decade, one imagines — GM’s robotaxi project Cruise will be ready for primetime, and that will be the evolution. No more Super or Ultra or Hyper because instead we finally did the full robotaxi thing. It’s just Cruise, now.

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