If the notion of hands-free driving is a little bit unsettling to you, read on. Autonomous driving is a technique that’s eventually going to mean the 18-wheeler coming up to pass you won’t necessarily have a human being in the driver’s seat. All manner of fleet operators, from Amazon on down, are seriously considering the adoption of self-driving vehicles, if not actively developing them with a variety of technology partners. The same capability will be coming to civilian vehicles sooner than you likely think. At General Motors, this sort of driver-assistance system is known as Super Cruise, and it will be coming to the GMC Sierra 1500 Denali full-size premium pickup late in the 2022 model year.
As you can tell by the welter of controls on the steering wheel, the Denali is a high-end content package worthy of this new stuff. Most basically, Super Cruise is the domestic auto industry’s first true subscription-based, hands-free assistance system, which will operate on some 200,000 miles’ worth of technology-compatible roads in the United States and Canada. It operates using a driver attention system combined with LiDAR, which stands for Light Detection and Ranging, which continually measures distances to surrounding vehicles and other obstacles. A small camera at the top of the steering column uses infrared lighting to determine where a driver is looking, and will sound an alert if the driver’s been staring in one direction for too long. At first glance, it’s an interesting concept. Equally interesting is the fact that GM accompanied its announcement of Super Cruise with a disclaimer making clear that drivers are still responsible for both paying attention and avoiding phones or other hand-held devices while the vehicle is in motion. Smart move.