A GM car that "drives itself" will be on sale by the end of the decade, according to General Motors. The so-called "semi-autonomous" car – probably a high-end Cadillac – will feature radio-based car-to-car communications integrated into a suite of safety technologies, like cruise control radar, blind-spot sensors and reversing cameras to automatically over-ride brakes and steering in an emergency.
"We can sense all these things now and if you take the driver out of the emergency situation, then accidents can be avoided and there will be fewer deaths and injuries," says Nady Boules, GM's chief engineer for electronic engineering.
The key tech for the "semi autonomous" car is the car-to-car radio, which will beam signals about accident avoidance to other similarly equipped cars to prevent multi-car accidents. Even if a handful of cars in a traffic queue are "semi-autonomous," that will be enough to improve road safety, says Boules, because they will slow non-equipped cars following them.
Also important in the "semi-autonomous" car is the integration of blind-spot indicators to EPAS steering, stability control and anti-lock brakes. The sensors, for example, can over-ride the steering to prevent a driver pulling into the path of an unseen car. GM's safety car will also be able to predict gaps in traffic and over-ride a driver who chooses the wrong escape option in an emergency.
The equipment is initially likely to be offered as part of a safety equipment pack on high-end Cadillac models, although the plan is to cascade it down onto more affordable GM models. On the Caddy it is likely to add around $1000 to a $2000-$3000 safety pack.
GM will continue to work on fully autonomous, self-driving vehicles with a promise to launch production vehicles in the next-decade, before 2030.