Setbacks notwithstanding, we’ve been eagerly anticipating Cadillac’s entry into the world of semi-autonomous driving with its Super Cruise system, developed to help reinforce the automaker’s position as top-tier luxury brand. After all, vehicular opulence is now deeply embedded with technological achievement and few things shout “I’ve arrived” like a car that can chauffeur you around.
However, Cadillac is changing its implementation strategy, making Super Cruise standard on the highest trimmed CT6 — instead of leaving it as a pricy optional extra. It’s also launching an advertising campaign to whet the public’s appetite, with the first of its “Let Go” TV spots appearing on MTV’s Video Music Awards over the weekend.
Since I’m not a 16-year-old, I wasn’t watching the VMAs. But the digital wonderland in we currently exist made the 30-second spot easy enough to find. It’s boilerplate automotive marketing nonsense — conflating a change in lifestyle with the purchase of a specific type of car.
The majority of it focuses on individuals achieving important lifelong goals with unrelated clips of a gentleman enjoying hands-free driving.
In fairness, other early ads in the campaign are much easier to swallow. There’s one where the driver uses Super Cruise to engage in sign-language with his passenger — utilizing the technology in a way I had not previously considered. But how good or bad the commercials were don’t really matter as much as the system itself.
For the most part, is seems great and baking it into plusher versions of the 2018 CT6 sounds like a fine idea. Previously, the company had suggested it would only offer the hands-off highway tech as a $2,500 option. But Automotive News reported Monday that the company has changed those plans.
A Cadillac spokesman explained the automaker is making Super Cruise a standard feature on the CT6 Platinum, which carried an initial starting price of $85,290. The feature remains an optional extra on the Premium Luxury trim. Adjusted pricing will be announced closer to the vehicles’ arrival in dealerships — part of a interim model-year addition that Cadillac calls “2018i.”
As for what the safety tech suite can actually do, Cadillac is promising a genuine hands-free highway driving experience —with literally handful of important exceptions. Super Cruise is supposedly capable of allowing you to move along the expressway in a single lane without ever having to touch the wheel.
However, you do need to regain control for passing, entering, and exiting. You also can’t play on your phone, take a nap, or crack a book. The system has sensors that monitor eye movement and won’t work if you stop paying attention to the road ahead. It may have one of the most advanced GPS systems ever installed in a motor vehicle (and LIDAR specifically designed for the CT6), but General Motors doesn’t feel comfortable enough to allow you to let your guard down entirely.
If you do, the car requests that you regain control before bringing itself to a gradual stop. “It’s been very carefully thought out from a safety standpoint,” GM product chief Mark Reuss told reporters in Detroit. “If you think about this from a pure safety standpoint, it’s really a driver load reduction.”
This is ever so slightly annoying, as Cadillac is touting the system as the world’s first true hands-free driving system, and even crafted an ad campaign all about letting go. It’s still impressive but maybe not enough to say it “sets the standard” for autonomous highway motoring quite so boldly. Tesla Motors’ Autopilot may be inferior from a technical perspective, but it essentially offers the same sort of highway experience — only without a camera checking to see if you’ve dozed off and a less demand for physical contact with the wheel.
It’s that middling contact that allows Cadillac to run its ads, though. To date, no automotive brand I’m aware of has ran a television advertisement specifically showcasing the autonomous driving functions of a production model (the failed Mercedes-Benz attempt notwithstanding). Credit should be given where it’s due, and it is certainly due here.
Reuss said the system will expand to other Cadillacs and eventually appear in General Motors’ other brands. “We will get to [that] point,” he said. “Cadillac is going to lead the way on all this.”