Hit & Run

Hands-Free Driving By 2017, Says GM

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Self Driving 1950s
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In a big step toward driverless automobiles, General Motors has announced that it will introduce a new Cadillac model in 2017 that features hands-free driving. The so-called Super Cruise Control will enable drivers to let go of the wheel and take their feet off the pedals as the cars travel down freeways and negotiate through stop-and-go traffic jams. Still, drivers will have to remain alert and be ready to take over when traffic gets too complex for the car's computer and sensors to handle.

As Bloomberg reports:

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 yesterday. 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, GM said in a statement.

GM's Super Cruise technology is not a self-driving car and the feature will require drivers to remain alert and ready to take the wheel if traffic conditions become too complex, Lauckner told reporters at a briefing before Barra's speech.

"We're rolling out active safety technology today. We're not going to wait until we have a driverless vehicle that can work in 100 percent of situations," Lauckner said. "There's a lot that can be done before we get to the perfect driverless technology."

As I reported in my article, "The Moral Case for Self-Driving Cars," the advent of this technology will dramatically reshape how people think of personal transportation. in one simulation, passengers waited an average of 18 seconds for self-driving cars summoned via a mobile app to pick them up. In addition, such cars can replace 11 conventional cars, free vast amounts of urban land from parking spaces, cut traffic congestion, and reduce individual automobile travel costs by 75 percent.