Even as it has radically expanded the hands-free driver assist capabilities of its current generation Super Cruise ADAS, General Motors has been hard at work on the system's successor, Ultra Cruise, since 2021. On Tuesday, GM finally revealed which model will be first to receive the upgraded features of Ultra Cruise and that vehicle is the Cadillac Celestiq.
"We're trying to expand our hands-free driving experience that we have with Super Cruise to most paved and public roads," Jason Dittman, General Motors' Chief Engineer, said during a press call Monday. "It will be a 'destination to destination' experience."
"You get in your car, use the internal nav navigation system, put a destination in it, and the car would essentially do the driving — roughly on 95 percent of the driving maneuvers on a typical drive, you'll be able to do hands-free," he added.
We already had a solid understanding of what Ultra Cruise would be capable of as GM went into detail when it first announced development of the system in 2021. Super Cruise currently works on around 400,000 miles of US and Canadian highways, allowing drivers to take their hands off the wheel when driving on a compatible highway or state route. It uses a mix of LiDAR, radar, GPS and cameras to know where the vehicle is on the road.
Ultra Cruise, builds off this with a new computing system, that will fuse the incoming data streams into a unified 360-degree view around the vehicle. "They're not redundant, they're fused together to give us the most accurate picture of the vehicle surroundings," Dittman said. Ultra Cruise equipped vehicles will also use an interior-facing infrared driver attention monitor that will track the, "driver’s head position and/or eyes in relation to the road," according to Tuesday's announcement.
Ultra Cruise will work on more than 2 million miles of highway at launch. Over time, the company plans to further expand the number of roadways covered by the Ultra Cruise network to include 3.4 million miles of roadway encompassing, "nearly every paved road, city street, suburban street, subdivision, and rural road in addition to the highways that today on the super cruise operates on," Dittman added.
Note that despite the larger number of roads the new system will work on, it still offers the same Level 2 driver assist capabilities as the rest of the auto industry, save Mercedes. That means, you will have to keep paying attention to the road you just won't have to keep your hands strictly on the wheel.
Unfortunately, current Super Cruise subscribers will not be able to upgrade to the new system once it arrives later this year. Ultra Cruise requires additional sensors and hardware to operate and GM doesn't currently have plans to offer a retrofit kit. You'll have to pony up the $300k Caddy is asking for the Celestiq if you want to be among the first to try it.