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Test driving GM, Ford and Tesla ‘hands-free’ systems

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In 2023, Lincoln Corsair will offer its next-generation ActiveGlide hands-free Advanced Driver Assistance System (ADAS) for highway driving, including lane changing, in-lane positioning and predictive speed assist.


DETROIT – Hard to let go. Even if the major automakers want to make it easier.

Automakers are rapidly expanding their ability to control vehicle acceleration, braking and steering. In some cases, drivers can loosen the steering wheel or pedals for miles at a time.

Officially known as Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS), these systems have the potential to reduce driver fatigue and improve road safety, while creating new revenue streams for companies. However, automakers have largely built their systems independently of each other without industry-standard guidelines from federal regulators. That means that years of development into “hands-free” or “semi-autonomous” could mean something very different to rival automakers.

To be clear, the vehicles we sell today are not self-driving or self-driving. Drivers should always pay attention. His current ADAS primarily uses an array of cameras, sensors and mapping data to assist the driver and monitor driver attentiveness.

Alongside ADAS, the most frequently discussed automakers are: Teslahas a variety of technologies that we loosely refer to as “autopilot” and “full self-driving capabilities.” (The vehicle is not fully self-driving.) However, general motors, ford motor Others are rapidly releasing or improving their own systems and extending them to new vehicles.

I recently tested ADAS from Tesla, GM and Ford. The company’s systems are among the most affordable and dynamic on the market. But while I was behind the wheel, none of them came close to perfection.

And even small differences between systems can have a big impact on driver safety and confidence.

GM’s Super Cruise

I first tested GM’s system on a closed track 10 years ago, but the years I’ve spent developing the automaker’s Super Cruise have given me a better understanding of overall performance, safety, and a clearer connection with the driver. Clearly rewarded in communication.It is the best performance and the most consistent system.

GM has expanded to 12 vehicles in recent years after first releasing Super Cruise in a Cadillac sedan in 2017, two years after Tesla’s Autopilot.We aim to make Super Cruise available on 22 cars, trucks and SUVs worldwide By the end of 2023.

The system allows drivers to operate “hands-free” as they drive over 400,000 miles of pre-mapped, divided highways in the United States and Canada. (Ford has mapped 150,000 miles of his, and Tesla’s system works on virtually any highway.)

Drivers can take their hands off the wheel when the steering wheel light bar turns green on GM’s Super Cruise.

Michael Weiland/CNBC

Super Cruise is a top contender when it comes to highway driving and can handle most challenges including curves and many construction zones. Its latest update also added auto lane changes. This works very well to avoid slow vehicles and maintain a set speed.

While driving hundreds of miles on the system, I was able to regularly Super Cruise for 30+ minutes. One stint he extended to over an hour without having to control the vehicle. Once Super Cruise is deactivated, it is usually available again after a few minutes, if not seconds.

According to the GM, most of the problems I’ve had are likely due to outdated mapping data that the system needs to work. GM’s system defaults to returning control to the driver when new construction is completed or heavier temporary work is done until the road is properly pre-mapped.

GM says it has produced more than 40,000 vehicles equipped with Super Cruise, not all of which are active users and have achieved more than 45 million hands-free miles.

The price of this system varies by vehicle and brand (for example, $2,500 for Cadillac). Subscription costs $25/month or $250/year after a free trial period.

ford blue cruise

Ford’s system is the newest of the three automakers and is similar to GM’s. In addition to pre-mapping and prescriptive functions, both systems are equipped with on-board thermal cameras to keep the driver’s attention. But if GM’s system is a competent, confident “driver,” Ford’s system, still in his teens, learns very quickly.

Ford’s system (marketed as Ford BlueCruise and ActiveGlide for Lincoln) first became available in July 2021, but the company has already expanded the system to more than 109,000 registered vehicles, with a Over 35 million miles of hands-free driving.

Ford’s system pricing varies by brand and vehicle. This could be part of a roughly $2,000 option package that includes other features for the 2023 Ford F-150 and Mustang Mach E. Like GM, subscription is required after trial period.

And like GM, Ford’s system works well on the highway. It’s unpredictable, and struggles especially in big, steep curves, construction zones, and other situations that human drivers can easily handle.

Ford’s BlueCruise system on the Mustang Mach-E electric crossover.


My hands-free experience with Ford’s system was 20 minutes and about 25 miles during a test drive on I-75 and the under construction I-94, primarily in rural and urban Michigan. .

This is a problem if you are trying to reduce driver fatigue and increase driver confidence in such systems.

Sam Abuelsamid, principal analyst at Guidehouse Insights, specializing in advanced and emerging automotive technologies, said:

Ford’s chief engineer for ADAS vehicle systems integration, Chris Billman, emphasized that the company is being overly cautious about the system at this stage. Despite warnings to take back control, the system is designed to keep running until the driver takes over.

Birman said the system is currently not designed to slow the vehicle down before a curve, as it was introduced with the Super Cruise in 2017, so the system will not work on large highway curves. It is said that it will stop.

Ford’s BlueCruise system displayed in the driver information cluster of an F-150 pickup truck.


Ford can also improve how the system interacts with the driver. GM uses steering wheel light bar and driver cluster communication. This is the best communication capability of his current three systems.

That’s not to say Super Cruise hasn’t learned yet.

Both Ford and GM’s systems could have hit a temporary concrete construction barrier if they hadn’t hijacked and freed the big S-curve road near Detroit.

Both Super Cruise and BlueCruise dis-engaged several times for what seemed like no reason, but quickly re-engaged. Super Cruise also attempted to merge into a breakdown lane or median in the newly completed construction zone, while Ford did a similar maneuver mid-curb.

And of course, neither system works on the street like Tesla does.

Tesla is next

Tesla’s tech is the most ambitious of the three and works well on the highway. But if not dangerous, getting stuck in city streets, especially in traffic, can be nerve-wracking.

Tesla vehicles come standard with ADAS, known as Autopilot. However, owners can upgrade the system with additional features, but at a cost. The fully self-driving (FSD) upgrade currently costs him $15,000 at the time of vehicle purchase. Opting in for a monthly subscription costs between $99 and $199 depending on the vehicle. Go to Tesla’s website.

We were able to use three Tesla-level systems with different functions on the Tesla Model 3 manufactured in 2019. a lot! ).

In limited highway testing, Tesla’s system performed quite well. This move included an auto lane change and a navigation-based exit, but traffic caused him to overshoot one exit ramp. GM and Ford do not currently link navigation to ADAS.

Tesla’s ADAS was also very impressive, being able to identify traffic lights on city streets and act accordingly.

One of my biggest problems with Tesla’s system on the highway is the frequent “check-in” where the driver has to pull the steering wheel to prove they’re actually in the driver’s seat and paying attention. It was what was asked for. “Checking in” takes some getting used to so the system doesn’t come off.

Tesla FSD Beta — an experiment on the road

I also struggled with car communication as to when the system was activated.

Unlike Ford and GM, which prominently display when the system is on, the only indication that Tesla’s ADAS is on is a smaller dime in the upper left corner of the vehicle’s center screen. Small handle icon. (Tesla Model 3 does not have a display screen in front of the driver.)

This means the driver has to actually take their eyes off the road to see if the system is working. Also, if the system is not working, the system will not be able to communicate well, and the driver will not know that the system is working and will feel uneasy.

Such problems were even more pronounced while the FSD Beta was operating on public roads. In addition to highway issues, the system has issues on some turns, as described in countless YouTube videos.

Add what’s locally known as the “Michigan Left”, a median U-turn crossover, and the system becomes the equivalent of a young student driver, if not dangerous. At one point doing a maneuver like this, the Tesla stopped across lane 1 instead of he crossed 3 lanes and tried to turn before I passed the system.

On the busy, straight streets of suburban Detroit, Tesla’s system worked mostly well. However, it lacked experience in recognizing the nuances of human drivers, such as stopping to let someone else into their lane. We also had some difficulty changing lanes and seemed lost when lane markings weren’t available.

All these concerns are why no other company has released a system like Tesla’s FSD Beta. This FSD Beta has been criticized for using customers as test mules. Tesla did not respond to a request for comment for this article.

CEO Elon Musk For several years, it has promised that vehicles could be fully autonomous. In a recent counter-argument to a lawsuit filed in California, Tesla said its “failure” to achieve such “long-term and ambitious goals” would not amount to fraud and would achieve full self-driving cars. He said that it is only through constant effort that the and radically improved. ”

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