Remember that little problem Cadillac was having with the semi-autonomous Super Cruise system—how sunlight could cause it to turn off and essentially make Super Cruise non-functional? Yeah. Cadillac is already working on fixing the problem with hopes of having it all sorted out on the new 2020 CT5.
The problem has been known for some time; it happens when the infrared camera mounted on the steering wheel column—the one that would detect your eye movements to determine if you were looking at the camera—would shut off under direct sunlight. There was a similar problem with drivers wearing polarized sunglasses—the camera couldn’t see the driver’s eyes. We went into depth on the problem earlier this month:
At that time, only the Cadillac CT6 was equipped with Super Cruise, so it wasn’t like the problem was affecting a ton of GM’s products. But when Cadillac unveiled the 2020 CT5 sedan at the New York Auto Show, they were promising it would also have the Super Cruise system. So, obviously, something must be changing.
Brandon Vivian, executive chief engineer at Cadillac, has said that they’ve been exploring their options. As quoted in The Verge:
“We’re looking at camera placement,” Vivian said. “We’re looking at software enhancements and other ways. We have other sensors that can see when the camera can’t see.”
Apparently, Super Cruise was also struggling with seeing the lines on the road. Snow, dirt, heavy rain—basically anything that can obscure your sight path—would disengage the system. “That one happened a lot,” Vivian said.
Interestingly, the solution for this particular problem was to update the system to include a message that pops up on the console to let the driver know Super Cruise isn’t detecting lane lines. Slightly concerning is the implication that it wasn’t doing this before.
In addition to those big changes, Super Cruise should also be better at reading road signs and traffic signals, dealing with construction, and navigating a larger swath of highway than is currently available.
Like any technology, Super Cruise isn’t perfect, but the fact that GM is bunkering down on improving the system is a promising sign for our semi-autonomous future. For what it’s worth, Consumer Reports ranked Super Cruise higher than Tesla, Nissan, and Volvo when looking at semi-autonomous systems. Cadillac just needs to get their shit together to sort it out. And, from what it sounds like, they’ll at least be trying to do that as the 2020 models start rolling out.