Hands-free Cadillac to roam US highways
GENERAL Motors (GM), the largest American carmaker, will introduce a Cadillac model in two years that can travel on the highway without the driver holding the steering wheel or putting a foot on a pedal.
The 2017 Cadillac model will feature "Super Cruise" technology that takes control of steering, acceleration and braking at highway speeds of 113kmh or in stop-and-go congested traffic, chief executive Mary Barra said on Sunday, in a speech at the Intelligent Transport System World Congress in Detroit. GM declined to release the name of the model that will carry the feature.
Ms Barra also said that, in two years, GM will become the first carmaker to equip a model with so-called vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) technology that enables the car to communicate with other cars with similar capabilities to warn of traffic hazards and improve road safety.
GM will make the V2V feature standard on its 2017 Cadillac CTS sedan, debuting in the second half of 2016, she said.
The Super Cruise feature will be on a different Cadillac model and goes beyond similar technology, available on some Mercedes-Benz models, that operates only at low speeds.
"With 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," Ms Barra said.
The technology will be included in "an all-new Cadillac that's going to enter a segment where we don't compete today", she added.
The Super Cruise feature may be greeted with scepticism from consumers, said Michelle Krebs, an analyst with researcher AutoTrader.com.
"There is still a concern by consumers about the safety of their vehicles because there have been so many recalls," Ms Krebs said. "This is going to take a while to win the confidence of consumers."
Carmakers around the globe are racing to develop self-driving cars to solve the growing problem of gridlock globally and help reduce traffic fatalities. There are now more than 1.1 billion vehicles on the road worldwide, said Jon Lauckner, GM's chief technology officer.
GM also said it is joining Ford, the University of Michigan and the Michigan Department of Transportation to create 193km of so-called intelligent highways around Detroit.
The roads will be equipped with sensors and cameras that enable them to communicate with cars to alert drivers to hazards and congestion.
The technology, to be deployed along stretches of Detroit's busiest freeways, will monitor vehicle speed and position, though that information will be anonymous and police won't use it to ticket drivers, Mr Lauckner said.
GM is working with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the United States federal highway safety regulator, to develop V2V communication protocols.
V2V communication enables cars to warn each other of cars hitting the brakes ahead, road hazards, traffic jams and closed roads, GM said. Ms Barra said the goal is to make traffic move more smoothly and safely.