General Motors Invests in the Next Wave of Automation Right Here in Lansing
Not that drivers are yet able to hop into their car, order up a destination and zone out until they arrive. But this is likely, perhaps in the next decade or later, said John Capp, GM’s director of global safety and vehicle programs.
“It’s fun to talk about what might be in 20 years, but it’s kind of an academic conversation,” he said.
Still, the features GM is promoting for the CTS scheduled for release in December 2016 foreshadow its vision of the future. The company is investing heavily to ensure its leadership in the wave of automation sweeping the auto industry. For GM, the new technology fits into what it identifies as “Driver Awareness” and “Driver Assist” packages.
The automaker’s CEO, Mary Barra, outlined GM’s plans in an address to the Intelligent Transport Society in 2014, a vision for transportation that she called provocative, inspiring and transformative.
“Cadillac will build GM’s first V2V equipped car in the 2017 Cadillac CTS,” said Barra. “Thanks to V2V, Onstar and a full suite of safety features, I believe that the CTS will be one of the most, if not the most, intelligent and connected production vehicles on the road.”
Already, current CTS models are available with radar, vision sensing cameras and ultrasonic sensors, a safety strategy that the company brands as “control and alert.” It comes in two flavors.
GM’s Driver Assist Package includes, among other features:
- Adaptive cruise control, which manages and regulates a vehicle’s speed and the distance between other cars.
- Front and rear automatic braking, a feature that is particularly useful in stop-and-go traffic.
- Blind-side zone alert, which flashes a signal in outside mirrors alerting the driver to a vehicle in the blind zone.
- The Driver Awareness Package has, among other features:
- Rear cross traffic alert, which monitors oncoming traffic as a car backs out of a parking spot.
- Lane departure warnings, which sense a lane change being made without the use of a turn signal.
- Forward collision alert, which warns of a possible rear-end collision ahead.
Altogether there are 11 advanced safety features in the two packages, many of which appear in one form or another in the automaker’s different vehicles. These safety features are considered autonomous, affecting only the vehicle.
The advancement that GM is promoting in the 2017 CTS is vehicle-to-vehicle technology that allows cars to communicate with one another or with roadside sensors to share information about location, speed, headings and system status. Experts say that integrating these data streams within-vehicle autonomous safety features will prevent most accidents.
Referring to the CTS, Capp said it already has advanced safety technology. “In many ways, we have the building blocks to learn how to do more with automated features. We need to design systems that work in the real world.”
Production of this new generation of autonomous vehicles introduces a new set of manufacturing challenges at the Grand River assembly plant.
“It is very complicated to manufacture. We have special floor space in the plant where the vehicles can be pulled in to test and align the sensors. The radar has to be calibrated and aligned to look straightforward. We check that the aim of the cameras isn’t too high or too low. Then there is software validation,” Capp said.
“It added a lot of complexity as you install high tech sensors into a vehicle. That’s why we built this new Milford test laboratory dedicated to testing these active safety features,” he said. GM spent about $14 million to develop what it terms “one of the largest active automotive safety testing areas in the country.”
Announcing the enhancements to its 52-acre test facility, GM said the complex included a 16-acre dynamics pad and various road networks to evaluate sensors, algorithms and the performance of these features, including cutting-edge systems involving autonomous control and vehicle-to-vehicle communication.
Also, GM has partnered with the Mobility Transformation Center at the University of Michigan on the development of connected and automated vehicles and systems technology.
In July, MTC, working with the Michigan Department of Transportation, opened a 32-acre test facility called Mcity to simulate a full range of driving experiences. The $10 million complex has five lane-miles of roads, intersections, traffic signals, roundabouts, underpasses and stationary and mechanized pedestrians. The university has partnered with an array of businesses that are shaping the future of mobility. These include auto manufacturers and suppliers, insurance companies, data companies, telecommunications firms and more.
“The goal is to be the leader in this revolution. This is a private partnership of industry, government and academia to develop the foundation for a commercially viable vehicle,” said Susan Carney, communications director for the Mobility Transformation Center and MCity. “Mcity is all about providing space for testing connected and automated vehicles before they are tried out on the road.”