General Motors has big plans for the rollout of its hands-free Super Cruise system which, until now, has only been offered by the Cadillac brand – and that includes launching the first version of the technology capable of towing on the GMC Sierra pickup.
The updated driver assistance system will be offered as an option on the Sierra 1500 Denali starting late in the 2022 model year, company officials revealed during a media webinar.
The move will “help democratize the technology and get a broader segment of people familiar with it,” said Phil Brooks, the truck brand’s marketing director.
GM’s Super Cruise technology allows a driver to operate a vehicle effectively hands free, albeit on roads carefully mapped in high definition. These are mostly limited-access roadways, but the system was updated to cover about 200,000 miles of pavement in the U.S. and Canada earlier this year. Super Cruise uses a variety of sensors, including cameras and radar, to monitor conditions surrounding a vehicle.
Another recent update to the technology allows a driver to tap the turn signal to pass a slower vehicle. But company officials said still other improvements will follow.
GM launched Super Cruise in late 2017 on the 2018 Cadillac CT6. It recently was added to other Caddy models and will begin rolling out more broadly next year, starting with the launch of the extended-length electric vehicle, the Chevrolet Bolt EUV. That will be followed by the GMC Hummer, an all-electric pickup.
But the GMC Sierra will become the first product to allow hands-free operation while towing a trailer, noted Duncan Aldred, the GMC brand’s general manager.
“It underpins the premium nature of this vehicle,” he said during GMC’s online media event.
Often compared to the Tesla Autopilot system, Super Cruise is a bit more restricted in terms of where it can operate. It also takes more pains to ensure that motorists remain at the ready to retake control in an emergency, or when a vehicle prepares to leave the area GM has mapped out using high-resolution Lidar. A camera-monitoring system will warn a driver who might be getting drowsy or distracted and eventually stop the vehicle – even calling for help if it appears there might be a medical emergency.
That has won Super Cruise numerous kudos, Consumer Reports magazine recently naming the technology its top-ranked semi-autonomous driving system. Tesla’s Autopilot was ranked a “distant” second.
“Even with new systems from many different automakers, Super Cruise still comes out on top due to the infrared camera ensuring the driver’s eyes are looking toward the roadway,” said Kelly Funkhouser, CR’s head of connected and automated vehicle testing.
Super Cruise isn’t cheap. It started out on the Cadillac CT6 as a $2,500 option, but still managed a “take rate” of 30%, meaning nearly a third of the sedan’s buyers opted for it. GMC has not yet said what it will charge for Super Cruise on either the Hummer or on the Sierra.