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.
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.
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.
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.'
Photo Credit: GM (2012 Super Cruise prototype shown)