While you’ve probably heard of General Motors’ Super Cruise and Ford’s Blue Cruise, do you know how they work, what they do and most importantly, what they don’t do?

Super Cruise

Super Cruise, which was introduced in 2017 and debuted in 2018 on one Cadillac model, is a semi-autonomous, hands-free driving system to use on more than 200,000 miles of compatible roads in the United States and Canada.

With Super Cruise engaged, the system automatically controls vehicle speed and steering. However, if you think that translates into your car suddenly becoming Knight Industries Two Thousand (KITT) from NBC’s “Knight Rider” television show, you will be sorely disappointed because Super Cruise always requires driver attention.

Under the Society of Automobile Engineers’ (SAE) definition, Super Cruise is in Level 2 (out of 5), which means it allows for partial driving automation only.

Super Cruise pairs two advanced technologies – a driver attention system and precise light detection and ranging (LiDAR) map data. Combined with an armada of cameras and radar sensors, Super Cruise provided more information from the road to the driver than any previous effort but to follow the adage, the driver must keep his or her eyes on the road.

It all starts with a small camera mounted on the topside of the steering column. This camera continually monitors the driver, regardless of the ambient lighting levels within the car. Using infrared light, the camera tracks the driver instead of relying on steering wheel inputs and warnings messages to handle driver attentiveness, which has loopholes of its own.

Drivers can disengage Super Cruise via the Super Cruise button or tapping the brake pedal. Super Cruise can pull the plug on things if it determines the driver is not paying attention and fails to pay attention to light bar flashes, seat vibrations and audible warnings.

Super Cruise uses real-time data from cameras, global positioning system (GPS) and radars but the LiDAR-scanned map data permits Cadillac to use controlled-access highways that have been mapped. Super Cruise is a great partner to have on long-distance trips because factors like intersections are no longer a factor.

Just like adaptive cruise control, poor weather conditions or bad road surfaces can block radar sensors and cause problems for the cameras.

The 2018 Cadillac CT6 large sedan received Super Cruise first. The CT6 passed on after the 2020 model year, though an enhanced Super Cruise is available on the ’21 CT4 and CT5 compact and mid-size sedans. The redesigned 2021 Escalade also has the latest version. The 2022 Cadillac XT6 and 2023 Lyriq EV will also offer Super Cruise.

A big addition to Super Cruise is the automatic lane-change ability. If certain conditions are met, a tap on a lever from the driver prompts the car to activate its turn signals and change lanes. If those conditions are not met, the system will tell the driver to do so manually. Other system improvements include more detailed map information, updated software for steering and speed control and greater ease of use and functionality.

As early adopters with CT6s exit the three-year trial period, Cadillac added a one-year extension to that but only for original owners. After the trial period ends, Super Cruise will cost $25 per month to keep it active but if the owner has an active OnStar subscription, Super Cruise will cost just $15 a month.

Super Cruise adds $2,200 to the Bolt EUV Premier’s price, bringing its total to $40,695 while the most affordable Cadillac with Super Cruise is the CT4 with a $50,340 price tag. Other vehicles with it include Chevrolet’s Silverado, GMC’s Hummer EV pickup and GMC’s Sierra. Super Cruise will cost U.S. customers $25 per month on a standalone basis but bundled with an OnStar plan or subscription, the price drops to $15 per month.

If drivers elect not to pay for Super Cruise after their trial expires, their vehicle retain safety features such as adaptive cruise control and lane-keep assist but automatic lane change and future product updates will not be available without a current subscription.

GM has plans to extend Super Cruise to 22 vehicles by 2023. The first non-Cadillac vehicle to get the system is Chevrolet’s 2022 Bolt EUV.

As of July 23, 2021, approximately 10 million miles have been driven by customers using Super Cruise across the U.S. and Canada.

BlueCruise

Over at Ford, BlueCruise is a Level 2 advanced driving assistance system, ADAS. It pairs adaptive cruise control with a forward-facing camera mounted high on the windshield to determine the vehicle’s exact position on the road and to see lane markings, traffic or obstacles. It also uses high-resolution GPS and three radar units mounted at the vehicle’s front corners and front center. A second camera with two infrared light emitters rests atop the steering column to watch the driver’s head position and eye gaze to confirm the driver can take control, if needed.

Ford sent engineers out in BlueCruise equipped vehicles to provide hands-free driving capability on more than 100,000 miles of compatible highways in the United States and Canada, called Hands-Free Blue Zones, which operate in 37 states and five Canadian provinces.

Initially called Active Drive Assist, Ford’s BlueCruise will arrived during the second half of 2021 on the F-150 and Mustang Mach-E equipped with Ford’s Co-Pilot360 Active 2.0 Prep Package.

Ford plans to offer its hands-free technology on other models and expects to sell 100,000 vehicles with BlueCruise during the driving aid’s initial year of availability.

Like Super Cruise, BlueCruise pulls data from a forward-facing camera and radar units plus data from the navigation system’s GPS and map database.

Ford makes BlueCruise standard on all Mustang Mach-E variants except for the base Select trim, where it is part of a Comfort and Technology package for $3,200. The most affordable Mustang Mach-E rings in at $47,195. The F-150 Limited comes standard with BlueCruise. On Lariat, King Ranch and Platinum trims, BlueCruise costs $1,595 but it forces other options that make the cheapest F-150 with BlueCruise to tally $54,285.

If you have a 2021 F-150 or a Mach-E with the ADA prep pack, you may pay a one-time $600 fee to upgrade your vehicle to BlueCruise.

Ford plans to augment BlueCruise with more Hands-Free Blue Zones, offer Lane Change Assist and Predictive Speed Assist features. With BlueCruise on, if a driver signals a lane change, Lane Change Assist will steer the vehicle into the next lane if it can safely do so. Meanwhile, Predictive Speed Assist will adjust vehicle speed for curves, roundabouts and more.

Super Cruise and BlueCruise are thus functionally similar, each attempting to reduce the driver’s workload to ease fatigue on long trips and steer the vehicle the way an attentive driver would.

BlueCruise’s advantages:

  • The system can automatically adjust the speed setting to follow posted speed limits and the driver can choose an offset between 1 and 20 mph above or below the posted speed limit
  • Putting BlueCruise in its best-selling vehicle, the F-150, gives Ford the opportunity to democratize BlueCruise, or sell an expected 100,000 trucks with it in the first year

Super Cruise’s advantages:

  • Works on about as twice as many highway miles currently, though both companies have vowed to improve on this point
  • GM is bringing out trailer-towing capability, in addition to automated lane changes. Ford is expected to bring these out eventually, possibly via software update
  • For those who are not color-blind, they may discern the Super Cruise steering wheel LEDs easier to see in peripheral vision than the changing cluster graphics Ford uses
  • Cadillacs with Super Cruise use a capacitive touch sensor to detect the driver’s hand on the wheel; Ford’s torque-sensor may make drivers wiggle the wheel occasionally to confirm your hand is there