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GM's Super Cruise tech could tackle city streets in 'Ultra Cruise' form

It sounds like Super Cruise could evolve into Ultra Cruise, or perhaps become a separate piece of technology.

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Super Cruise 100% supports hands-free driving, which rival systems can't say.

Cadillac

General Motors has slowly and carefully rolled its Super Cruise partial automation system for highway driving out, but the automaker doesn't have plans to stop there. In the future, we could be using a system currently referred to as "Ultra Cruise."

CNBC reported on the new system after GM's executive vice president of Global Product Development, Doug Parks, mentioned the system on Tuesday during a Citi Car of the Future event. A "big team" inside GM is currently working on Ultra Cruise, which would extend Super Cruise's abilities to city streets.

This would be a marvel since local roads are far more complex than mapped highways. Right now, Super Cruise only works on 200,000 miles of highway systems across the US and Canada, and they're incredibly detailed maps, thanks to lidar. The vehicle's camera, radar and sensors work with the detailed maps to keep the car moving, while the driver can 100% take their hands off the steering wheel. Super Cruise is the only system that supports hands-free driving on the market today, as rival systems such as Tesla's Autopilot still require hands on the wheel.

How GM plans to tackle such an immense challenge remains unclear. When asked, a GM spokesperson told Roadshow, "Over the years, General Motors has added new capabilities to Super Cruise, the industry's first true hands-free driver assistance system for compatible highways and we'll continue to do that while expanding the technology across our vehicle portfolio. At the same time, we have teams looking at how we can expand the capabilities to more scenarios."

When asked about a timeframe or where Ultra Cruise could show up first, the spokesperson said the company does not have additional details but underscored we should "stay tuned." Parks also said Ultra Cruise may not be the final name for this system, and it's not totally clear if Ultra Cruise will be some sort of update to today's Super Cruise or a separate system.

In the meantime, Super Cruise will grow smarter and head to more GM vehicles. The GMC Sierra and Chevy Silverado will include the system next year, as will the Chevy Bolt EV. Cadillac's two new sedans, the CT4 and CT5, will also offer the system. In 2022, GM should offer 12 vehicles with the Level 2 driver-assist system, and it will support automatic lane changes, thanks to richer mapping data.

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