GM’s next-gen Super Cruise makes towing easier


Soon you’ll be able to tow without using your hands.

GM

GM’s Super Cruise is one of the most significant automotive innovations to come out in probably the last two decades. This hands-off driving aid is right up there with features like backup cameras and automatic emergency braking. Further improving Super Cruise, engineers have developed an enhanced version that’s easier to use and offers additional features. We got to experience this updated system firsthand at the automaker’s proving ground in Milford, Michigan, and it is seriously impressive.

Super Cruise: The basics

If you’re not familiar, Super Cruise automatically controls vehicle speed and steering, allowing you to zip along with your hands off the wheel — though there are a few caveats. Super Cruise is geofenced, meaning it can only be engaged on certain roads, specifically limited-access divided highways, of which about 200,000 miles’ worth have been mapped in the United States and Canada. Beyond that, you also have to pay attention. A driver-facing camera ensures you’re always situationally aware and ready to intervene at a moment’s notice if the system needs a hand, not watching TikTok videos on your phone or taking a nap in the back seat.

Super Cruise launched about five years ago on the Cadillac CT6 sedan and since day one the system has worked phenomenally well. It’s smooth, almost immediately confidence-inspiring and intuitive. Building on this foundation, the next-generation version can be engaged while towing and it’s smart enough to change lanes automatically.

Super Cruise… GM is making a great feature even better.

GMC
Super towing

Making long drives with a trailer much easier, you’ll soon be able to tow with Super Cruise, something I experienced in a heavily camouflaged 2022 Sierra 1500 Denali, a refreshed version of the GMC brand’s full-size truck.

Anywhere normal Super Cruise works you’ll also be able to tow with it. Typically, this would not include a GM proving ground, though the Milford facility track has been mapped so the system can operate there. Once you’re on an appropriate roadway the system recognizes, you just hit the button and wait for the steering wheel lights to go green. When they do, this indicates you’re super cruising and can take your hands off the wheel and relax… just not too much, because you have to remain alert and ready to take over.

I only experienced it for a few minutes, but towing with Super Cruise is a seamless experience. The system works just as well while dragging a huge box trailer as it does in a Cadillac CT6. The system is responsive and builds driver confidence in just seconds.

Aside from being a godsend to drivers that regularly haul trailers, the ability to tow with Super Cruise also gives GM a leg up on rivals that are developing similar hands-off driving aids. For instance, you won’t be able to do the same thing with Ford BlueCruise, at least when it first comes out.

Automatic lane change

Another clever Super Cruise feature is the ability to change lanes automatically. If you have the system set at, say, 70 mph and you close in on another vehicle that’s only doing 60, the vehicle recognizes this, changes lanes to pass the slower-moving obstacle and then moves back into the previous lane. These maneuvers are seamless: as smooth as a human could do. Super Cruise even flashes the turn signals while doing all this, something human drivers often neglect to do.

Automatic lane change works anywhere Super Cruise can be engaged, though it’s unfortunately disabled while towing, which is probably smart. This feature can also automatically move a vehicle over if it’s in a lane that’s ending, an incredibly smart touch.

Super Cruise can be a godsend while slogging through rush-hour traffic.

Steven Ewing/Roadshow

Beyond that, enhanced Super Cruise offers lane-change-on-demand functionality. If you want to move over, just tap the turn signal stalk and if it’s clear, the vehicle will mosey on over. If you fully engage the stalk, it still only moves one lane at a time; you have to reengage the turn signal for each lane you want to shift.

Vehicle Intelligence Platform

The next-generation Super Cruise’s innovative new features are enabled by several things. GM’s new Vehicle Intelligence Platform electrical architecture provides more throughput for the system’s various computers and sensors. Beyond that, 360-degree radar arrays have been added so this latest version of Super Cruise can see all around the vehicle. This addition allows the system to look at traffic, so it doesn’t jump out in front of another car or truck that’s zooming past. Enhanced Super Cruise is smart enough to accelerate or decelerate so it can try to find a suitable gap and change lanes.

With better radar units and other sensors (and likely unfathomable amounts of software tying all this together), engineers also improved the driver-attention monitor. It has better sun-glare performance so the system doesn’t disengage when you’re driving into the sun and it’s low in the sky, the system can track head pose and eye gaze so it’s better at knowing whether you’re paying attention — and it even works with polarized sunglasses.

The future, today

Super Cruise is GM’s killer app. Since its release, it’s been a seriously impressive bit of kit and the enhanced version feels like a significant step forward even in my admittedly limited testing. The abilities to tow with it engaged and use the automatic lane-change capability are slick features.

After years of being shackled to just one model at one of its divisions, it finally seems like the automaker is recognizing this technology’s significance. You can get Super Cruise in the Chevy Bolt EUV all-electric crossover right now and GM is expanding its availability — including the enhanced version — to 22 different models by 2023, bringing the future a little closer to the present.

And at long last, GM is pushing this groundbreaking driver aid out across its products portfolio. You’ll be able to get new Super Cruise in six 2022-model-year vehicles starting in Q1 2022. This includes the Cadillac Escalade, CT4 and CT5 models, the Chevrolet Silverado, GMC Sierra and Hummer EV pickup. By 2023, it should be available in a whopping 22 different models.

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