At Citigroup’s 2020 future automotive symposium, Doug Parks, GM’s vice president of global product development, procurement and supply chain, said GM is developing the next generation of mass production automatic driving system with the internal code named “Ultra Cruise”, which aims to fight Tesla’s AutoPilot.
Compared with the super cruise launched in 2017, the biggest highlight of ultra cruise is that it can realize automatic driving on urban streets. In order to achieve this goal, GM organized a large-scale team to promote. However, parks did not indicate expected mass production time or whether it was working with cruise, GM’s autonomous driving subsidiary.
At present, cruise has just announced 150 layoffs, cut down the lidar R & D team and laid off some R & D personnel in other departments. In addition, cruise also postponed the deployment time of robotaxi service. Similarly, there is no timetable. It may depend on the approval time of origin models. GM has invested a lot of resources in the field of automatic driving. At present, there are teams promoting L2 + level automatic driving and L4 level automatic driving in mass production. This is also the pressure from companies such as Tesla and waymo. Tesla, in particular, has grown into a force that can not be ignored by traditional car companies.
In addition to the improvement of Tesla’s sales, more importantly, Tesla autopilot has given consumers an unprecedented driving experience through the continuous upgrading of Ota. This continuous upgrading process has also increased the connection between Tesla and car owners, which is something that car companies have been longing for but never achieved before. Traditional car companies including general motors, Nissan and Volvo have launched their own automatic driving system (auxiliary driving system) for Tesla’s AutoPilot, such as general Super Cruise, Nissan ProPilot Assit and Volvo Pilot Assist.
In October 2018, consumer report, a well-known non-profit third-party evaluation organization in the United States, published an evaluation report on the driving assistance system. In this report, super cruise on Cadillac CT6 ranked first over Tesla’s autopilot. However, after Tesla updated the capability of autopilot through OTA, it also surpassed super cruise in the evaluation of consumer report. Since then, autopilot has experienced several OTAs, and its ability has become unparalleled.
In order to keep up with the pace of Tesla autopilot and improve the competitiveness of their products, traditional car companies have also invested resources in mass production level automatic driving and L4 level automatic driving, including the ability of ultra cruise interpreted by general motors. In 2019, GM CEO Mary Barra first mentioned ultra cruise, but only mentioned that GM registered such a trademark, but did not provide more information about the system. Parks also said that ultra cruise may not be the final name.
Traditional car companies have been very conservative about new technologies, but Tesla has put too much pressure on them. Two years after the appearance of autopilot, GM launched super cruise in 2017, but the development of the system can be traced back to ten years ago. Due to the more conservative strategy and lack of Ota capability, super cruise is not as popular as autopilot. In addition, autopilot is being questioned with the occurrence of fatal accidents and driver abuse.
Of course, super cruise can only be used on the limited 20000 mile highways in the United States and Canada, because these highways have been mapped by lidar and provide high-precision maps, supplemented by on-board cameras, radar and other sensors. In addition, DMS is also used to detect the driver’s attention state. The ability of ultra cruise is much stronger than that of super cruise, but it does not have the ability of fully automatic driving. Parks said GM is trying to focus on providing drivers with automatic driving ability outside the highway, including urban streets, at a reasonable price.
Obviously, GM has also differentiated the automatic driving system (L2+) and the L4 level automatic driving system at the mass production level. However, it is not clear whether GM will define ultra cruise as L3 level automatic driving. At present, Audi, Volvo and other car companies have successively abandoned the mass production of L3 level automatic driving and directly went to L4. Functionally, maybe ultra cruise meets the L3 level automatic driving defined by SAE, but legally, it depends on how to define the legal liability of man-machine coupling, whether it is human responsibility or machine responsibility, and the responsibility of the machine part, which needs to be regulated at the legislative level.
Ultra Cruise does not have a clear mass production time, but autopilot can continuously improve its ability through Ota. Musk’s goal is to finally realize full automatic driving (FSD) and lay a technical foundation for its next goal: driverless taxi and power grid energy storage network service. The war between traditional car companies and Tesla will continue. Finally, it will bring automatic driving to mankind and provide more convenient travel services for mankind. We can look forward to it together.