Cadillac Celestiq Operates Autonomously 95% of the Time Using Over 20 Cameras and Sensors

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By Car Brand Experts

When looking at advanced driving systems, General Motors’ Super Cruise stands out. This hands-free highway driving technology incorporates LiDAR scans of 400,000 miles of the nation’s highways and real-time sensor data to offer a seamless semi-autonomous driving experience. Ultra Cruise, an upgraded system that GM claims can handle 95% of driving scenarios, is soon to make its debut on the $300,000 Celestiq. The Detroit automaker has recently revealed the inner workings of this system.

In essence, it deploys a multitude of cameras and sensors working in unison to ensure safe navigation without collisions. This sophisticated methodology is referred to as “sensor fusion.” The array of sensors includes various short and long-range radars, a LiDAR, and multiple cameras.

Upon its release, the Celestiq will join the select few vehicles featuring a factory-installed LiDAR sensor. LiDAR, a light-based radar technology, rapidly produces detailed rangefinding data in the form of high-resolution 3D imagery. While commonly used by autonomous vehicle startups, integrating this cutting-edge sensor into passenger cars poses software development challenges due to the complex data it generates.

The comprehensive approach of Ultra Cruise, incorporating various sensor types, is what sets it apart, presuming it functions effectively upon its launch with the Celestiq. Apart from LiDAR, Ultra Cruise leverages four short-range radars on the vehicle’s corners, three long-range radars on the front and rear, and seven 8-megapixel cameras positioned at strategic spots. GM asserts that the system will amalgamate this data into a continuous stream for the car’s sophisticated “compute platform,” developed in collaboration with semiconductor giant Qualcomm, to interpret and convey directions such as stop, go, and turn.

This represents a complex challenge, and while not explicitly stated in GM’s release detailing Ultra Cruise, it’s apparent that the automaker is drawing from the expertise of Cruise, GM’s autonomous taxi service in San Francisco, to address this task.

That being said, Ultra Cruise is acknowledged to handle 95% of driving situations, not 100%, and will be identified as a “Level 2” semi-autonomous system upon its debut, rather than a “Level 3” system permitting the driver to divert attention from the road ahead. The intricacy in ensuring functional autonomous-like systems within a limited scope of circumstances is well understood. Hence, Super Cruise exclusively operates on LiDAR-scanned highways and Tesla’s “Full Self-Driving” often falls short. Even Level 3 systems — like Mercedes’ anticipated deployment in Nevada — are confined to situations such as slow-moving traffic on highways, a controlled and predictable environment for autonomous vehicle operations.

The ultimate test will come when the Celestiq hits the roads, similar to how GM, akin to Tesla, refrains from guaranteeing the immediate availability of its advanced driving system upon release. Ongoing updates will be carried out wirelessly as GM accumulates more data and gains insights about deploying such a system. Once the technology matures, it is anticipated to expand to a wider range of vehicles across different price points.

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