Ultra Cruise-equipped vehicles will have more than 20 sensors. - Photo: General Motors

Ultra Cruise-equipped vehicles will have more than 20 sensors.

Photo: General Motors

General Motors announced that Ultra Cruise, the company’s next-generation advanced driver assistance system designed to enable hands-free driving in 95% of all driving scenarios, will have a 360-degree view of the vehicle through a sensor suite when it launches on the Cadillac CELESTIQ.

The destination-to-destination hands-free system will use more than just cameras to “see” the world, according to GM's news release. Ultra Cruise uses cameras, short- and long-range radars, LiDAR behind the windshield, an all-new computing system, and a driver attention system to monitor the driver’s head position and/or eyes in relation to the road to help ensure driver attention. These systems work together through “sensor fusion” to provide Ultra Cruise with a 360-degree, three-dimensional representation of the vehicle’s surroundings.

“GM’s fundamental strategy for all ADAS features, including Ultra Cruise, is safely deploying these technologies,” said Jason Ditman, GM chief engineer, Ultra Cruise. “A deep knowledge of what Ultra Cruise is capable of, along with the detailed picture provided by its sensors, will help us understand when Ultra Cruise can be engaged and when to hand control back to the driver. We believe consistent, clear operation can help build drivers’ confidence in Ultra Cruise.” 

GM said it expects that customers will be able to travel hands-free with Ultra Cruise across nearly every paved public road in the U.S. and Canada, including city streets, subdivision streets, and rural roads, in addition to highways.

Vehicles equipped with Ultra Cruise hardware will experience incremental enhancements through over-the-air software updates.

GM added that it is focused on expanding ADAS accessibility with the combination of currently available Super Cruise driver assistance technology and soon, Ultra Cruise, bringing these technologies to more customers on more vehicles, in more regions at more price points.

How Ultra Cruise’s Sensor Suite Works

GM is developing Ultra Cruise software in-house with a team of software engineers from around the world. The company also works with suppliers who are experts in their relative spaces and integrates their sensing technologies with its software.

  • Driver attention system: This small camera, located on the top of the steering column, uses infrared light to help monitor the driver’s head position and/or eyes in relation to the road to help ensure driver attention.
  • Compute platform: This is the physical hardware that enables Ultra Cruise. The system will be powered by a scalable compute architecture featuring system-on-chips (SoCs) developed by American semiconductor company Qualcomm Technologies.
  • Long-range cameras: These seven, eight-megapixel cameras are located on the front, corners, back, and sides of the vehicle, providing expanded fields of view for Ultra Cruise. They help enable the system to detect objects such as traffic signs, traffic lights, other vehicles, and pedestrians.
  • Short-range radars: Placed on the four corners of the vehicle, these radars are used to help sense a radius of up to 90 meters, like pedestrians crossing the street or vehicles in surrounding lanes.
  • Long-range radars: The three 4D long-range radars on the front and back of the vehicle allow for Adaptive Cruise Control speeds as well as lane change maneuvers at highway speeds by helping to detect an object’s location, direction and elevation relative to the speed of the vehicle. They also help the system determine safe stopping distances.
  • LiDAR: The LiDAR, located behind the windshield, helps produce an accurate three-dimensional view of the scene, enabling more precise detection of objects and road features such as vehicles and lane markings, even in inclement weather conditions. Combined with other sensors, it can help create a perception of the environment around the vehicle for Ultra Cruise, increasing the system’s functional domain and performance.

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