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GM plans to launch hands-free driving by 2016

'Super Cruise' feature will keep vehicles in a specific lane while making necessary steering and speed adjustments.

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GM CEO Mary Barra says the self-driving technology can help relieve driver stress. GM

General Motors announced Sunday it plans to introduce Cadillac models in two years that incorporate hands-free driving and Wi-Fi-enabled vehicle-to-vehicle communications to exchange traffic information with similarly equipped vehicles.

GM's "Super Cruise" semi-automated technology will automatically keep a vehicle in a specific, properly equipped freeway lane, making necessary steering and speed adjustments in bumper-to-bumper traffic or long highway trips. The feature, which was unveiled in 2012, is expected to debut in a high-end Cadillac in 2016 on a 2017 model, and will eventually trickle down to other GM brands, Chief Executive Mary Barra said in a speech at the Intelligent Transport Systems World Congress in Detroit on Sunday.

"With Super Cruise, when there's a congestion alert on roads like California's Santa Monica Freeway, you can let the car take over and drive hands-free and feet-free through the worst stop and go traffic around," Barra said in her speech. "And if the mood strikes you on the high-speed road from Barstow, California to Las Vegas, you can take a break from the wheel and pedals and let the car do the work."

However, unlike the driverless vehicle being tested by Google, GM's system will require drivers to remain attentive and ready to resume control of the vehicle. In May, Google unveiled a two-seater prototype vehicle that uses built-in sensors and a software system to safely maneuver the vehicle rather than a steering wheel and accelerator and brake pedals.

Google has been leading the charge in developing self-driving technology over the past couple of years, but several automobile manufacturers have also gotten into various aspects of the autonomous driving game, including Audi, Mercedes Benz , Ford, Nissan, Delphi, Toyota, and Tesla.

Barra also said GM plans to begin equipping the 2017 model Cadillac CTS sedans with vehicle-to-vehicle communications to help drivers avoid traffic collisions on the road and mitigate traffic congestion. V2V communications use a variation of the 802.11 wireless network standard used by laptops and mobile phones, but instead link cars, which can share position and speed information with each other 10 times per second. That can let one car reliably detect when another in front is braking hard, for example.

"I'm convinced customers will embrace V2V and automated driving technologies for one simple reason: they are the answer to everyday problems that people want solved," Barra said.

The US government has made enabling wireless communication links between cars a priority, believing that the technology will reduce accidents and, eventually, decrease fuel consumption and speed travel. While finalizing a report on a 3,000-vehicle study of vehicle-to-vehicle communications, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration said in February it supported creation of a regulatory proposal that would require V2V devices be installed in new vehicles in the future.

GM did not release the name of the model on which Super Cruise will appear or indicate how much the feature would add to the vehicle's price tag.

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