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Published: Wednesday, 8/28/2013

AUTOMOTIVE

GM engineering auto that’s almost-driverless

‘Super Cruise’ system steers by radar, cameras

ASSOCIATED PRESS

MILFORD, Mich. — Sometime before the end of this decade, General Motors Co. will put a car on the road that can almost drive itself.

The automaker says the system, called “Super Cruise,” uses radar and cameras to steer the car and keep it between lane lines. Also, the radar keeps the car a safe distance from cars ahead of it, and it will brake to a complete stop if necessary.

GM and other automakers such as Mercedes, BMW, and Lexus already offer radar-guided cruise control systems that keep their cars a safe distance from other vehicles and even stop before a crash. They also have systems that warn the driver if they’re drifting out of their lane. But until recently, engineers haven’t been able to steer with computers, according to GM.

“The steering control is the big additional piece,” said John Capp, GM’s director of electrical controls and active safety technology.

On Tuesday, Nissan said it wants to make cars that drive themselves by 2020.

On Wednesday, GM engineers showed off the company's system at the company’s testing grounds in Milford, Mich., north of Detroit. The system adds control of electric power steering to off-the-shelf technology that’s now available. Although they still have bugs to work out, a Cadillac SRX SUV equipped with the technology worked very well.

Mr. Capp says a lot of development work still needs to be done about road conditions, reaction of sensors, visibility of lane lines, and how the system will interact with the driver, who still would be in control and easily can override the computer system. He says it’s possible GM could sell the system well before the end of the decade. It would debut in Cadillacs, GM’s luxury brand, but likely would spread to the rest of the company’s lineup.

Engineers say there are many obstacles to cars that completely drive themselves, including how they react to cars and trucks that don’t have the technology. For those reasons, Mr. Capp says completely driverless cars are 20 to 30 years away.



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