General Motors is pushing further into the world of semi-autonomous driving with Ultra Cruise, a new hands-free system that will launch on select 2023 Cadillac models. Whereas Super Cruise offers hands-free driving only on certain highways, GM says Ultra Cruise will eventually be available for every paved road in the United States and Canada, covering "95 percent of all driving scenarios."
If this sounds like Tesla's Full Self-Driving system, you're not wrong. There are some notable differences, however, starting with GM's array of equipment that feeds information to the system. Ultra Cruise will utilize cameras, radar, and LiDAR, whereas Tesla relies solely on cameras. At launch, the system will be operable on 2 million miles of roadways but GM says that can eventually expand to 3.4 million miles of roads. As such, it will function on highways as well as city streets and intersections, offering a door-to-door hands-free driving experience.
Without getting too technical, GM explains that Ultra Cruise uses a scalable architecture that can add features, functions, and services over time. Drivers will interact with it using a new display system that shows what it "sees" around the vehicle, which in theory should be the same as what the driver sees. It will be capable of automatic lane changes, left and right turns, object avoidance, following speed limits, and reacting to permanent traffic control devices. As for driver awareness, it will use the same monitoring system as Super Cruise to ensure the driver is focused on the surroundings and ready to assume control.
GM doesn't call out Tesla directly in its Ultra Cruise announcement, but the automaker does claim Ultra Cruise and its bevy of sensors "leads to the most robust hands-free driver assist system for our customers." Only select GM vehicle owners will experience Ultra Cruise, however, as it will only be offered on premium vehicles whereas Tesla offers FSD on all its models.
Super Cruise will endure as GM's mainstream semi-autonomous tech, though GM has been extremely slow rolling it out. It was pulled from the Cadillac Escalade because of the global chip shortage, and it's unclear if that shortage will affect the planned Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra Super Cruise rollout in the spring. Otherwise, it's only offered on select Cadillac models and the Chevrolet Bolt, both the standard hatchback and the Bolt EUV.
GM doesn't mention a cost for Ultra Cruise, nor if there will be a subscription service required to use it. Super Cruise is free for three years, then requires a $25 monthly fee for continued use.