A letter sent from the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to GM revealed some of the details about how the "Super Cruise" advanced-driver assistance system (ADAS) will function, including its ability to enable hands-free operation for extended periods.
In March, GM asked the NHTSA if its "Super Cruise" system's ability to stop a vehicle and automatically activate hazard lights would pass safety regulations.
In a response made public Monday, the NHTSA gave GM the thumbs up for its Super Cruise system to pull the vehicle over and turn on the hazard lights. The NHTSA, however, cautioned that any defect in the technology "could present an unreasonable risk of an accident occurring or of death and injury in an accident."
"We urge GM to fully consider the likely operation of the system it is contemplating and ensure that it will not present such a risk," the NHTSA's letter stated.
GM's Super Cruise system has facial recognition technology that monitors certain cues to make sure the driver is still attentive, GM spokesman Kevin Kelly told Reuters. If the ADAS system senses the driver is sleeping or not paying attention, it sends visual warnings, including a light bar on the steering wheel, and then audio warnings. If the system determines that the driver is no longer responsive, it will activate a safety protocol to bring the vehicle to a controlled stop.
GM has been testing its Super Cruise semi-autonomous driving technology since 2012. It had initially planned to unveil the technology on the Cadillac CT6 in late 2016, but recently changed the date to 2017.
The system will have a new adaptive cruise control with lane following that controls steering, braking and acceleration in certain freeway environments.
GM stated in its letter to the NHTSA that when Super Cruise is in use, the driver must always remain attentive to the road, supervise Super Cruise's performance, and "be ready to steer and brake at all times."
"In some situations, Super Cruise will alert the driver to resume steering for example, when the system detects a limit or fault," the letter stated. "If the driver is unable or unwilling to take control of the wheel (if, for example, the driver is incapacitated or unresponsive), Super Cruise may determine that the safest thing to do is to bring the vehicle slowly to a stop in or near the roadway, and the vehicle's brakes will hold the vehicle until overridden by the driver."