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General Motors has unveiled Ultra Cruise, a new, advanced driver assistance technology which, it said, is a significant next step to enable its goal of zero crashes, zero emissions and zero congestion.

Designed to ultimately enable hands free driving in 95% of all driving scenarios, Ultra Cruise eventually can be used on every paved road in the US and Canada.

Ultra Cruise will cover 2m miles of roads at launch in the US and Canada, with the capacity to grow to 3.4m miles. Customers will be able to travel truly hands free across nearly every road including city streets, subdivision streets and paved rural roads, in addition to highways.

“Ultra Cruise is not just a game changer in terms of what it enables ­− a door-to-door hands-free driving experience − but a technological one as well,” said Doug Parks, GM head of global product development, purchasing and supply chain. “It’s been developed completely in-house.”

GM’s two hands-free advanced driver-assist systems will coexist in the company’s lineup with Super Cruise available on more mainstream vehicles and Ultra Cruise reserved for premium entries.

“The combination of Ultra Cruise for premium offerings and Super Cruise for lower-cost products will enable us to offer driver-assist technology across price points and segments,” said Parks.

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System capabilities

Ultra Cruise is powered by a 5-nanometer, scalable compute architecture future proofed through the Ultifi software platform and Vehicle Intelligence Platform. Ultra Cruise can add features, functions and services over time through frequent over the air updates.

Ultra Cruise builds on the capabilities of Super Cruise with new automated driving features intended to:

  • Provide users with information based on their experience with the system through an all-new dynamic display
  • React to permanent traffic control devices
  • Follow internal navigation routes
  • Maintain headway; follow speed limits
  • Support automatic and on-demand lane change
  • Support left and right-hand turns
  • Support close object avoidance
  • Support parking in residential driveways

The system also features full 360-degree perception around the vehicle.

Smart diagnostic and learning systems automatically identify scenarios where Ultra Cruise needs upgrading, triggering data recordings in vehicles equipped with the service. These recordings will then be processed through GM’s back office data ecosystem for continuous improvement of the system.

Ultra Cruise components

Ultra Cruise works through a combination of cameras, radars and LiDAR, developing accurate, 360-degree, three-dimensional statistical representations of the environment surrounding vehicles with redundancies in critical areas. Ultra Cruise also incorporates an integrated LiDAR behind the windscreen.

“We believe that the combination of different sensors, or sensor fusion, leads to the most robust hands free driver assist system for our customers,” said Parks.

Human-Machine Interface (HMI)

A key component of Ultra Cruise is its Human Machine Interface, through which the system presents information to the driver and communicates when they need to be in control of the vehicle. Building on the HMI currently used in Super Cruise, Ultra Cruise’s HMI also shows drivers that they and the system are seeing the same thing.

The primary HMI, the Ultra Cruise Dynamic Display, is a freeform display directly in the driver’s line of sight. It’s designed to help drivers stay focused on the road.

Ultra Cruise’s HMI strategy also includes helping the driver to stay engaged behind the wheel, ready to take over if required. Super Cruise’s Driver Attention Camera system will be carried over to Ultra Cruise.

GM is also developing an Ultra Cruise app that will be viewable in the centre display of vehicles only when the vehicle is parked. The app will provide more centrally located information, including driver’s statistics, trips and history.

Ultra Cruise will join GM’s lineup of hands-free advanced driver-assist systems on select models in 2023, with Cadillac being the first to introduce the technology.