The 2017 Cadillac CTS May Drive On Highways For You

Illustration for article titled The 2017 Cadillac CTS May Drive On Highways For You

At the start, it will only be a single stretch of road and a few individual cars, but it's coming: cars that communicate with other cars, and also with the roads they're driving on. Cadillac plans on being the first.

GM talked about three technologies yesterday at the annual World Congress on Intelligent Transport Systems, the Detroit News reports:

  • 'Super Cruise' semi-autonomous driving
  • Vehicle-to-Infrastructure communication
  • Vehicle-to-Vehicle communication

Super Cruise is pretty straightforward. We've seen it before in prototype form. Basically, where cruise control lets you take your feet off the pedals, Super Cruise lets you take your hands off the wheel, also.

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Mercedes has something like this (we tested it on the S-Class right here), but it's only good for bumper-to-bumper traffic. Cadillac's system will work on the highway.

Mary Barra, GM's CEO and possible Know Nothing-er, went on to say that Super Cruise should roll out in the 2017 Cadillac CTS about two years from now. Delphi is supplying the tech, and there'll only be a limited quantity of Super Cruise Caddys at first.

Barra also talked about the broader vehicle communications technologies that will connect cars with each other and with the roads they're on. GM claims to be a leader here, and puts its focus with this tech on safety.

Vehicle-to-Infrastructure communication (also called Vehicle Infrastructure Integration or VII) is pretty easy to understand. Basically, there are sensors in the road that talk to the cars passing by. Instead of relying on humans to see and read road signs, the road would just talk to your car. Physical road signs would be made obsolete in favor of constantly updating digital messages beamed to your car's electronic brain.

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The Michigan Department of Transportation claimed that the first roads to get VII tech will be around Detroit. The starter will be the "heavily traveled 50-mile stretch of Interstate 96/Interstate 696 from U.S. 23 in Brighton, east to Interstate 94 in St. Clair Shores," and that will later expand to 120 miles of surrounding highways, reports the Detroit News.

Vehicle-to-Vehicle (V2V) is the real kicker here. Instead of cars talking to a road and the road talking to cars, cars would talk to each other. If, let's say, a car suddenly brakes for a deer or fog or whatever a few cars ahead of you. That car will instantly notify the car behind it that's it's braking, and send that information back through traffic. The delayed reaction you get with humans, sending a wave of slowing-down traffic, would disappear.

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Where things get weird is that the US Government is getting involved in V2V. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is in the middle of talks with carmakers about questions of legality and liability with the technology, and NHTSA only expects to even announce finalized rules about V2V in 2016.

Barra said that she expects a V2V system might eventually add about $300 to a car's cost, but Cadillac is shooting to start it in a $3,000 options package bundled with their Super Cruise. I consider that cheap — I would value being able to read the Internet while commuting to work at 'infinity dollars.'

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Photo Credit: GM (2012 Super Cruise prototype shown)

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DISCUSSION

orlove
Raphael Orlove

OK, let me go into a bit more depth on that whole liability thing, which seems to be the main talking point between automakers and their regulators at the moment.

In short, carmakers don't like the idea of being liable in a crash that was dependent on another company's technology or data.

The Government Accountability Office put out a report last year that talked all about V2v concerns, and you can read it all right here and right here as a text document. I'll just put in the section on liability.

Liability Issues:

Six automobile manufacturers and 17 experts we interviewed expressed concern about the challenge posed by uncertainties related to potential liability in the event of a collision involving vehicles equipped with V2V technologies. This challenge is manifested in a number of potential liability issues and questions that are unanswered at this time:

* One automobile manufacturer said that because V2V technologies offer warnings that are based in part on data transmitted by other vehicles— as opposed to sensor-based systems that collect data solely from a vehicle's surroundings—it could be harder to determine whether fault for a collision between vehicles equipped with V2V technologies lies with one of the drivers, an automobile manufacturer, the manufacturer of a V2V device, or another party.

* One expert suggested that, because V2V data may be needed to determine fault in the event of a collision, there could be challenges in determining who owns the data transmitted between vehicles. This expert suggested that establishing rules regarding V2V data ownership would, in the event of a collision, help to answer questions about which parties have access to the data.

* There may be challenges in determining liability if V2V technologies do not work appropriately—for example, if data transmission is delayed due to channel congestion, hacking into the system, or inaccurate GPS readings.

* Four automobile manufacturers shared their concern that the introduction of aftermarket V2V devices into vehicles already on the road would create additional liability issues. One automobile manufacturer explained that this is because it is difficult to integrate aftermarket devices into a vehicle's existing internal network, potentially making it more difficult to gather and transmit the same degree of information as a fully integrated device and, therefore, making it more difficult to determine the cause of a collision.

Automobile manufacturers may be reluctant to move forward with plans to install V2V technologies in their newly manufactured vehicles because of the uncertainty that accompanies these liability issues. Citing some automobile manufacturers' concerns about the liability risks posed by V2V technologies, members of the VIIC have suggested that additional work needs to be done to estimate the potential liability and risks associated with the deployment of V2V technologies and determine ways to mitigate that risk. One automobile manufacturer and two experts suggested that congressional action could be needed to limit the liability levels of automobile manufacturers in the event of a V2V device malfunction. One of these experts suggested that legislation setting forth liability limits for V2V devices that are shown to meet certification tests and function according to regulations and standards may be appropriate. However, one expert suggested that all vehicle technologies involve liability issues and that if the automobile industry ensures that V2V technologies work properly before deployment, V2V technologies should not pose any greater liability risks than existing sensor-based crash avoidance technologies.

DOT officials told us that they do not believe that V2V technologies pose any greater liability issues for automobile manufacturers than existing sensor-based crash avoidance technologies and therefore do not believe that related legislation is necessary. One expert we interviewed suggested that DOT should help guide the process of determining who or what entity owns the data transmitted between vehicles by V2V technologies as that knowledge would make it easier to determine liability in the event of a crash. Another expert suggested that DOT will have a role to play in helping to address liability issues once the specifics of the future deployment of these technologies become clearer.

Until this gets settled, V2V ain't happening.