Self-driving cars this decade? Could be. Super Cruise, a suite of General Motors technologies that lets a car drive itself on some roads, could be ready by the middle of the decade, Cadillac says. It’s now 2012, so that means as little as three or four years from now. This is, GM suggests, a Cadillac that “is capable of fully automatic steering, braking and lane-centering in highway driving under certain optimal conditions.” It uses adaptive cruise control and lane-centering technologies that rely on an array of radar, ultrasononic and camera sensors, plus precise GPS map data.
General Motors’ press release has lots of qualifiers. The bottom line is that GM believes it can unleash a self-driving car that works, under optimal conditions, in a couple years. It appears that GM means on limited access roads with clearly defined lane markers, but also in crowded stop-and-go traffic, not just on wide-open rural interstates. A driver would still be behind the wheel ready to take over in case of a problem such as lane markings that disappear, rain or snow blocking the sensors, or possibly another car swerving across lanes so quickly they might confuse the array of sensors.