CHICAGO — Cadillac will begin a national dealer training program for its Super Cruise semiautonomous highway driving system beginning this week.
The training is key to the rollout of the hands-free technology, which is beginning to arrive in dealerships on top-end models of the 2018 Cadillac CT6.
"It's very important. We don't take it lightly at all," said Robb Bolio, Super Cruise global vehicle performance manager. "The training is unique, maybe different than anything else we've done."
The company did a two-day workshop in late August on Super Cruise with dealership trainers, including intricate demonstrations and test drives. Trainers will begin fanning out to Cadillac's more than 900 dealerships in the next several months, starting with the top CT6 sellers, to educate employees on the capabilities of the system and how to sell it.
"Part of that process is the dealers are going to have to take the customers out on the road to experience the system," said Bolio, speaking as Super Cruise operated the car along Interstate 90 here during a long-distance demonstration ride for journalists. "It's not just, 'This is how it works, here are your car keys.' They have to take them out and show them."
Dealers won't have to be certified to sell the vehicles as they are with the Chevrolet Bolt EV. But they will be required to go through the training, which is in addition to the online training used for a typical vehicle launch.
The dealership training is complemented by a national advertising campaign dubbed "Let Go" — a tag line to urge drivers to remove their hands from the steering wheel and let the system drive the vehicle. Cadillac also is launching a series of online videos for consumers on how to use the system.
Super Cruise, which Cadillac touts as "the world's first true hands-free driving system for the freeway," theoretically could allow drivers to travel several hundred miles without having to touch the steering wheel or pedals. The technology uses lidar mapping and a suite of cameras and sensors and is programmed to work on 160,000 miles of interstates and other divided highways with no cross-traffic in the U.S. and Canada.
Cameras monitor drivers, too, and make sure they're not nodding off or looking away from the road for too long. The system warns an inattentive driver through a series increasing alerts that begins with a light bar atop the steering wheel. The light is green when the system is engaged and blinks when a driver-facing camera on the steering console detects the driver is not paying attention. It turns blue when the driver takes control to change lanes and flashes red when the driver needs to take immediate control.
The human-machine interface "is a critical piece of this," Bolio said. "We want it to be seamless, but also intuitive so the driver knows clearly when they're in control, when the system is in control."
A key part of Super Cruise training will be understanding its limitations. The system, for example, will not take drivers through toll booths and certain highway interchanges. The company recommends that drivers take manual control while driving through construction areas, as the system doesn't avoid cones or road barrels. It also will not work in certain weather conditions such as heavy rain or snow, or when bright sunlight disrupts the driver-facing camera, a problem the company is working to correct.
Super Cruise is a $5,000 option on the CT6 Premium Luxury trim, which starts at $66,290, including shipping. The system, as reported by Automotive News, is standard on the top-end CT6 Platinum. That model starts at $85,290, including shipping.
Bolio declined to say whether Cadillac will roll out Super Cruise across its lineup. But GM executives, including CEO Mary Barra and product chief Mark Reuss, have been bullish on future applications for the technology.
"We will get to the point," Reuss said in August in response to a question about expanding the system. "Cadillac is going to lead the way on all this."