• Car Review

Review: Cadillac's Super Cruise hands-free driving system

By David Undercoffler | April 6, 2018

Key takeaways

  • Super Cruise allows hands-free driving on select freeways in the U.S.
  • It’s not a self-driving or autonomous system.
  • Once you’re used to it, it reduces stress and fatigue on long trips.
  • It comes as part of a $5,000 package on some mid-level CT6 models; on higher-end grades it's standard.

What is it?

Super Cruise is the name of Cadillac’s hands-free cruise control system. While there is a lot of talk about autonomous or self-driving cars, this system isn’t autonomous. Yes, it automates some tasks during freeway driving, but it requires that the driver be paying attention at all times and be ready to take control immediately.

When engaged by the driver, Super Cruise allows hands-free driving on predetermined highway systems in the U.S. The highways need to have a divider between the two directions of travel, and the highways need to have on and off-ramps.

The system won’t work on city streets, county roads or even sections of highway that General Motors hasn’t already pre-mapped using LIDAR.

Unlike Tesla’s AutoPilot system, the Super Cruise setup will not automatically change lanes for you when it is engaged.

So what will it do? Super Cruise will guide the car — without any driver interaction with the steering wheel, gas pedal or brakes — during freeway driving at speeds up to 85 mph. It will slow down and speed up based on the vehicles in front of it; drivers can choose one of three distances that the car will keep between it and the vehicle it's following. It will steer the car entirely on its own, without any driver intervention or contact with the steering wheel, even around curves on the highway.

To make sure that drivers are paying attention when the system is engaged, the Super Cruise system uses a camera mounted on the steering column that tracks the driver’s head movement. If it notices that the driver is inattentive for too long (we noticed seven or eight seconds), it will alert the driver. If an escalating series of alerts fails to get the driver to pay attention, eventually the system will disengage, bring the car to a stop and alert authorities through General Motors’ Onstar network.

If you’ve seen the ads for Cadillac’s Super Cruise where a guy sits in the driver’s seat with his arms crossed but is paying attention to the road in front of him, this is essentially what the system lets you do. Using your phone, reading a book or generally looking away are all prohibited.

Super Cruise also depends on the roads being clear to function. The system relies on the car’s cameras and radar sensors to detect lane markings to determine where within the lane it is. If too much snow has covered the lane markings for example, Super Cruise won’t engage.

What’s good

TLDR: It works, it’s easy to use, it hands over control without issue.

It works! Once we got over the initial anxiety of handing over control to a computer, Super Cruise was an impressive experience that worked in every condition we tried it in. Day, night, straight freeways or curved or even with sunglasses on, we had no trouble using the system (we weren’t able to test in rainy or snowy conditions). The net effect was less driver fatigue during the long road trips that we used it on.

It’s intuitive. Super Cruise is based on an existing adaptive cruise control system, so once the driver knows how to turn that on, Super Cruise requires just an additional button-push to engage (once a light in the instrument panel confirms Super Cruise is possible in those conditions). A light bar built into the top portion of the steering wheel shows green when engaged, blue when on pause (like when you go to change lanes) and is off entirely when Super Cruise is off.

It knows when to quit. The Super Cruise system makes it clear when it’s handing over control of the car to the driver, either due to unmapped sections of highway, road conditions or exiting the highway itself. The handoff itself is seamless and the driver doesn’t feel like they’re wrestling the car for control.

What’s bad

TLDR: Can’t automatically change lanes like Tesla’s AutoPilot; is costly.

No lane changes. While we understand that this isn’t an autonomous system, it would be nice if Super Cruise could change lanes automatically when the driver used their turn signal. This seems within the limits of what the system can do, and it would add an appreciable layer of automation to the experience.

It’s expensive. Right now, Super Cruise is a $5,000 option on certain trims of the CT6. That’s a lot of money for what it offers. Fortunately, the system is standard on high-end trims of the CT6 that pack on additional features, so the cost of the system isn’t as acute.

It’s CT6 only. Currently Cadillac’s largest sedan is the only model General Motors is offering this system on. No other Cadillac, Buick, Chevy or GMC models offer it. That will almost certainly change within the next year or two as hands-free systems like this become both cheaper and more widely available across the industry. But we’re going to have to wait.

What’s it gonna cost me?

As mentioned, the Super Cruise system is a $5,000 upgrade on some mid-level trims of the CT6. Buyers will need to spend at least $66,290 for the CT6 with the Premium Luxury trim if they want to then add the Super Cruise package.

In addition to the Super Cruise setup, this option group also includes Cadillac’s trick magnetic ride control, adaptive suspension system, night vision, 20-inch wheels, rear-wheel steering and front and rear automatic safety braking.

It’s also standard on the higher-end trims of the CT6 but you have to spend at least $85,290 to get it standard on the mid-grade version with the 3.6-liter, 335-horsepower V6.

Similar systems

Tesla’s Autopilot is the best-known, handsfree system for better or worse. For a variety of reasons, the abilities of Autopilot are sometimes exaggerated in the media or by users themselves. It isn’t autonomous, though it will change lanes on the freeway, a capability the Cadillac system lacks. However, Autopilot lacks Cadillac’s driver-attention camera system. While some drivers may prefer not to have the car constantly check up on how they’re using the system, such a setup keeps its own users — and the rest of us on the road — safer since it prevents misuse.

Audi’s new A8 sedan is due on sale in the U.S. soon, and it too will have some form of hands-free driving. Currently, the automaker is working out just what abilities the car will have on U.S. roads based on federal regulations.