Vehicles | April 17, 2017 9:00 am

Cadillac’s ‘Super Cruise’ Is Hands-Free Driving for People Who Love Hands-On Driving

Forget autonomous. This is a future car lovers can get behind.

Have you ever driven a Cadillac CT6? It is a dream. And it would be a tragedy if — at some point in the near future — that were no longer an option.

This is the rub with autonomous vehicles. Will they be safer? More efficient? More convenient? Possibly. But they’ll also take away the thing most of us love best about cars: driving them.

Which isn’t to say that every now and then, especially on the highway, we wouldn’t mind being able to monkey with the radio, turn around to reprimand children or — gasp — text. And Cadillac has heeded that call.

Just announced at the New York International Auto Show, Cadillac’s 2018 CT6 sedan will feature Super Cruise, a hands-free driving technology meant for highway driving. It’s a technology that may give Tesla’s Autopilot tech — which has experienced its fair share of woes — a run for its money. But we’ve grown weary of everyone picking on Tesla. So let’s just say that Super Cruise is a driver-assist system that can claim many innovative industry firsts.

The tech utilizes two advanced technology systems (a driver attention system and precision LiDAR map data) to ensure utmost safety.

The driver attention system uses a small camera located on the top of the steering column and infrared lights to track the driver’s head position and determine where he or she is looking. If the system detects the driver has turned attention away from the road for an extended period, it will prompt the driver to return their attention to the road ahead — first via a light on the steering wheel, next through an alert sound, and lastly through seat vibration. If the driver does not refocus on the road after the escalated warnings, the car will be brought to a controlled stop and contact OnStar to alert first responders. Cadillac is to date the only maker who actually sends help in this situation. Mighty kind of ‘em.

Super Cruise is also the first driver-assisted tech to utilize precision LiDAR mapping, which basically means light and lasers plus radar. Engineers mapped every mile of limited-access highway in the U.S. and Canada (about 160,000 miles of road) to provide the car’s computers with detailed info about the road ahead. Translation: your car knows what’s coming. It also means the CT6 knows if you’re trying to use Super Cruise somewhere other than a divided, limited-access highway, and it’s not going to let you do that.

So no napping and no hands-free city driving. Them’s the rules.

What’s more? Cadillac plans to take the 2018 Super Cruise-enabled CT6s on every inch of that 160,000 miles they previously mapped for proof of concept.

“I have 40 cars out there right now in all conditions testing this out. We’ve been in this game for a while,” said Barry Walkup, Cadillac’s Chief Super Cruise Engineer. “We don’t look to our customers to validate our technology. We do that before it hits the lot.”

We dig it. Because we’ve all been there: You drop something while you’re on the highway. A bagel, say. It rolls under the seat. And you think to yourself, “I’m going to look down for just two seconds while I grab it.” At 70 mph, you’re clearing 204 feet in those two seconds. It only takes one second for a baseball to leave a pitcher’s hand, get hit by a bat and fly back into the pitcher’s glove. A lot can happen in two seconds. So having someone there to take the wheel for a moment: we’re all for it.

Just so long as they don’t take it away from us altogether.