General Motor’s CEO, Mary Barra, who was only appointed this year, made the announcement about the new technology at the Intelligent Transport System World Congress in Detroit on Sunday saying, “With Super Cruise, when there’s a congestion alert on roads like California’s Santa Monica Freeway, you can let the car take over and drive hands free and feet free through the worst stop-and-go traffic around. If the mood strikes you on the high- speed road from Barstow, California, to Las Vegas, you can take a break from the wheel and pedals and let the car do the work. Having it done for you — that’s true luxury.”
GM also plans to install vehicle to vehicle (V2V) transmitting devices in the next two years. This means cars will be able to “talk” to each other and the road environment, or sense hazards before they arise. It will no doubt be a life-saving technology once it becomes a common feature in the vehicles on our roads.
Talking and self-driving cars are on the horizon, though there are several complications and issues that need to be resolved. The first is safety. The technology in automated cars will need to be perfect 100% of the time. And with a record rate of recalls this year (29 million), GM is very aware they are not there yet.
“It’s critical that it works flawlessly every single time. When you look at what has got to come together to make this happen — not just for straight driving on a section of highway, but for every city situation you can imagine — there’s quite a bit of technology that has to come together to make this work.”
The second is efficacy. Self-driving cars need to communicate with each other. So releasing a car with V2V technology is all very well, but unless every car in a driver’s immediate landscape is equipped with the technology, there will be unavoidable blind spots in the system. For example, if no other V2V cars are released prior to 2017, GM’s Cadillac will be left with only other Cadillac models to “talk” with.
Aware of this chicken and egg situation, Barra issued both a challenge and a plea to other automakers saying, “I am asking all of you to accelerate your work in the field as well. Let’s strive to build cars and trucks that don’t crash. Let’s connect our vehicles.”
Money news reports that GM is not alone in the market, “Automakers around the globe are racing to develop self-driving cars to solve the growing problem of global gridlock and help reduce traffic fatalities. There are now more than 1.1 billion vehicles on the road worldwide, Jon Lauckner, GM’s chief technology officer, told reporters in Detroit Sunday. A recent National Highway Traffic Safety Administration study estimated the economic and societal impact of car crashes in the U.S. is more than $870 billion a year – and is especially driven by the high costs of insuring semi trucks.”
Road safety is a cost to us all. There’s the toll of lost lives, increased insurance premiums and more of our valuable time spent on the roads every year. But will self-driving cars and V2V technology solve this problem? Maybe in the long term – when the technology is both affordable and properly tested. In the meantime, we think it’s best not to take your eyes off the road.
(Photo courtesy of That Hartford Guy)