Nearly a century ago, Cadillac’s motto was “Standard Of The World” and they meant it. People around the globe believed it. Caddys were the kind of car Jay Gatsby or Al Capone or Nucky Thompson would tool around in and they would do so without any sense of compromise or modification or equivocation. For a very long while, Cadillacs were not the best American car you could get, they were simply the best car you could get. Period.
Sadly, Cadillac hasn’t been able to say anything even close to that since gas rose above 25 cents a gallon. To American luxury car companies in general, and Cadillac specifically, a “good” car has two basic qualities: Comfort and presence. Everything else – stuff like efficiency, handling, performance – those aren’t even close to counting as much as feeling like your sitting on your couch while driving, and when you arrive at your destination, people notice that you have arrived.
So what now? Whither Cadillac? They’ve tried to keep up with all these annoying non-domestic trends like fuel efficiency and such. They’ve tried to keep up with the Germans and the Japanese. They’ve tried desperation Hail Mary passes like the Cimarron and the Catera. And failed. They’ve tried pragmatic all-American answers like the latest V-Series cars. And gotten it right (seriously, those things haul). But a sustaining through line, a common thread that leads to outright desirability year after year, seems to elude the “Standard Of The World.” Perhaps, just perhaps, now they’ve spotted a trend early and can jump on it and regain some of what was lost.
This trend is autonomous, or at least semi-autonomous driving. Now, and this is just my personal opinion, I don’t see why this is something to be desired. I’m one of those cerebrally-challenged gearheads that actually enjoys driving, so having the car do that for me doesn’t seem like much fun. Then again, if I were stuck in commuter traffic gridlock twice a day, I might reconsider my position.
Hands Off Approach
Caddy’s dive into this semi-autonomous future is called Super Cruise. In a way, you could think of Super Cruise as another luxury feature that Cadillacs have always been drowning in. Super-comfy seats? Check. Auto-dimming rear view mirror? Check. Auto-high beams? Check. In a way, hands-free or semi-autonomous driving or whatever you want to call it could be seen as The Next luxury feature to have. Heading into the office to make your big presentation on The Bumstead Contract? Better go over it one more time; beep-boop, punch a few buttons and in the near future your Cadillac will keep on driving while you work.
And all this is just fine, theoretically, but, eventually systems like this will have to hit the roads in the real-world.
Cadillac has just taken that step for the first hands-free drive on the freeway using their Super Cruise technology, and, get this, they went from one side of the country to the other. This is no jaunt around the block, oh no. Twelve Super Cruise-equipped Cadillac CT6 vehicles departed from Cadillac House in New York City and drove to Los Angeles, California. The trip went through 16 states plus the District of Columbia, making stops in major cities across the country. It made for good PR and advertising plus as a proof of concept.
Groundwork & Foundations
Super Cruise, which will be available this fall in the 2018 Cadillac CT6, is quite different from other driver assistance systems. Super Cruise utilizes a driver attention system and precision LiDAR map data to keep the car on path but the driver somewhat involved. Officially, Super Cruise is a “driver assistance feature” and not a fully autonomous system. But there’s no reason why, if this Super Cruise stuff works, that Caddy can’t expand on that foundation and move further along the path to fully autonomous driving at the flip of a switch.
So Caddy put a lot on this cross country jaunt of theirs and, impressively, they started at the deep end: The Super Cruise technology was demonstrated on New York City freeways. Given that driving on New York freeways, turnpikes, throughways, and other “roads” is like a cross between Frogger and Call Of Duty, I’ve got to hand it to Cadillac for not taking it easy on themselves. Just wait until some half-crazed, New York Rangers fan swerves across all five lanes directly in front of one of these Super Cruise equipped CT6s, jabbering out his window about the Stanley Cup Finals before diving off an exit ramp.
If Super Cruise can deal with that once every mile or so, then Cadillac will really have something.
Tony Borroz has spent his entire life racing antique and sports cars. He means well, even if he has a bias toward lighter, agile cars rather than big engine muscle cars or family sedans.