DETROIT, Michigan: General Motors is launching its next-generation "hands-free" driver-assist technology, named Ultra Cruise, which uses sensors consisting of cameras, radars, and laser operated lidar to control a vehicle's steering, acceleration, and braking, GM announced during its two-day annual investor event.
The company also revealed its plan to double revenues by 2030 by becoming a software company, in addition to manufacturing cars.
GM's first-generation advanced driver-assist system, entitled Super Cruise, has been hailed as a safer, more capable version of Tesla's Autopilot, due to its camera-based driver monitoring system that ensures drivers keep their eyes on the road. GM says Super Cruise will "co-exist" with Ultra Cruise. Super Cruise will be available in more "mainstream" vehicles, while Ultra Cruise will be reserved for GM's luxury models.
In a call with reporters, GM President Mark Reuss said Ultra Cruise would be able to handle "urban and rural" roads, in addition to stop signs, traffic signals, and other complexities that Super Cruise is currently unable to detect.
"Drivers will be able to travel hands-free across nearly every paved road, including city streets, subdivision streets, and rural paved roads," said Jason Ditman, chief engineer at GM.
Ultra Cruise will also support automatic and on-demand lane changes, left and right hand turns, avoiding close objects, and enabling parking in residential driveways.
"The sensing architecture is all new," Ditman said. "There are additional cameras and radars, and we are adding lidar to the vehicle."
Ultra Cruise will not be able to handle every driving scenario. Ditman gave the example of a roundabout as a type of complex road condition that the system will not be able to navigate. A light bar in the steering wheel will communicate to the driver when they need to take control, sending signals through escalating lights and feedback. A voice assistant will also inform the driver when they need to take the wheel.
Despite its enhanced capabilities, GM says it still considers Ultra Cruise a Level 2 system, as defined by the Society of Automotive Engineers.
At Level 2, the vehicle can control both steering and acceleration and deceleration, as well as monitor blind spots and even change lanes automatically. But it falls short of full autonomy because a human sits in the driver's seat and can take control of the car at any time.