Cadillac Super Cruise Plays it Safe Versus Tesla’s Autopilot

And that’s a very good thing when promising hands off motoring. 

The Silicon Valley start-up has been the subject of much sound and fury thanks to the close-but-not-quite nature of its Autopilot technology. At least one man has died behind the wheel of a somewhat self driving Tesla, while numerous others have reported dissatisfaction at the system’s operation.

Tesla’s system isn’t the problem though, people are.

The public’s inability to follow simple instructions should never be underestimated; which is ultimately why General Motors chose to delay the debut of its Super Cruise self-driving system until the technology was effectively bulletproofed against bad decision making behind the wheel.

Debuting on the Cadillac CT6, GM bills the system as “the industry’s first true hands-free driving technology for the highway,” which is a minor, yet significant deviation from Tesla’s Autopilot. Tesla may have been the first to market with its self-driving tech, but after a slew of high profile incidents and bad publicity, the California company was forced to revise its language and require drivers to keep their hands in contact with the steering wheel at all times, even when letting the car pilot itself.

On the surface it would seem Cadillac’s “driver attention” monitoring system sets Super Cruise apart, but according to Fortune the deviation lay much deeper; residing not in the actual operation of the self-driving system, but what allows the self-driving system to operate: digital maps.

While Autopilot is fed by over 1.3 billion miles of real-world driving data collected through Tesla vehicles since 2014, GM gone for quality over quantity, mapping over 160,000 miles of American highways using highly precise LIDAR laser imaging. Feeding Super Cruise with LIDAR gathered data is a far more resource intensive process than Tesla’s data harvesting–a benefit of GM’s sheer scale more than anything–but it allows for a better user experience, on the highway at least.

Cadillac says it will monitor construction zones and regularly re-map those zones using roving LIDAR trucks in order to keep its cars from getting fooled by disappearing or deviating lane markers.

Unlike Autopilot which will have gaps in its user collected data, GM has mapped the entirety of America’s criss-crossing National Highway System, a vastly smaller, yet higher-quality pool of information, which allows for truly hands-free driving where people will demand it most.

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