GM Updating Super Cruise to Add More Automated Features

Unlike Tesla, GM wants to keep the human driver in the loop

General Motor pickup truck trailering with Super Cruise
A GM prototype pickup pulling a trailer with Super Cruise in action.
Photo: GM

GM announced new updates to its Super Cruise active driver assistance system earlier today that the company says will automate even more tasks. Unlike rival Tesla, GM doesn’t couch the advances in terms of self-driving automation, and describes the new features as taking additional stress out of driving.

Starting in 2022, Super Cruise will be able to make automatic lane changes and operate while towing a trailer. Drivers will also be able to program the vehicle’s built-in navigation system to optimize routes for roads where Super Cruise is active. CR will test the updated system when it becomes available.

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Like Tesla’s Autopilot and more than a dozen other active driver assistance systems, Super Cruise can automate certain driving tasks, such as steering, braking, and acceleration. Unlike other systems, Super Cruise monitors driver attention by training a camera on the driver to make sure they are paying attention to the road when the system is switched on. Some newer Tesla vehicles also come with real-time driver monitoring cameras enabled, although CR’s experts have raised questions about their effectiveness.

“The additional Super Cruise-enabled vehicles and new features are an important step toward our goal of enabling hands-free driving 95 percent of the time and getting people more comfortable with letting go of the wheel,” Mario Maiorana, Super Cruise chief engineer, said in a written statement.

The GM statement stands in contrast to Tesla’s predictions that its vehicles will evolve to become fully autonomous with software updates, says Kelly Funkhouser, head of advanced vehicle technology testing at the Consumer Reports auto test center. “Tesla is trying to get the human driver out of the picture, while other manufacturers, like GM, are trying to make the driving experience less stressful in certain situations,” she says.

Super Cruise has remained CR’s top-ranked active driver assistance system since we started testing them in 2018, largely because of its driver-monitoring component. Tesla’s Autopilot came in second.

Separate from Super Cruise, GM  also has invested in self-driving startup Cruise, which aims to create a full self-driving vehicle. But until human drivers can be fully replaced by machines, Funkhouser says it’s better for driver assistance systems to focus on automating certain tasks—like long highway drives—that humans might find tedious, while reserving more complex situations for humans. “Systems like Super Cruise let the human do the things the human does well and the system do the things the system does well,” she says.

For example, Super Cruise can be used only on premapped, divided highways. (Today’s announced software update will maximize the use of these roads for navigation routes.) It uses direct driver monitoring to warn drivers if they appear to have stopped paying attention to the road, and the current version will even warn the driver in advance when there is an upcoming lane merge or complex situation that requires extra attention.

The Super Cruise updates announced today will be available on the 2022 Cadillac Escalade SUV, the Cadillac CT4 and CT5 sedans, and the Chevrolet Silverado, GMC Hummer EV, and GMC Sierra pickup trucks in the first quarter of 2022. The Cadillac XT6 SUV and Chevrolet Bolt EUV will still get Super Cruise, but they won’t have the updated software. By 2023, GM says that Super Cruise will be available on 22 vehicles. 

Some existing 2021 model-year vehicles that are already equipped with Super Cruise will be able to receive the new capabilities via an over-the-air (OTA) update. GM has not yet said which vehicles will be eligible for the update.


Head shot photo of CRO Cars CIA editor Keith Barry

Keith Barry

Despite my love for quirky, old European sedans like the Renault Medallion, it's my passion to help others find a safe, reliable car that still puts a smile on their face—even if they're stuck in traffic. When I'm not behind the wheel or the keyboard, you can find me exploring a new city on foot or planning my next trip.