GM: Automated Driving Technology Will Ease Traffic Congestion, Avoid Accidents

Sep 08, 2014 01:50 PM EDT | Matt Mercuro

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General Motors will introduce a new car that can communicate with other vehicles to help avoid accidents and ease traffic congestion in two years, Chief Executive Mary Barra said this weekend.

During the same time frame, the automaker will also introduce more advanced technology allowing hands-free driving in some cases, Barra added.

"I'm convinced customers will embrace (vehicle-to-vehicle) and automated driving technologies for one simple reason: they are the answer to everyday problems that people want solved," she said, according to Reuters.

Automakers, government agencies, and universities around the globe are working on developing cameras, radar, sensors, and other features that will allow vehicles and surrounding infrastructure like stoplights to alert each other about nearby driving conditions.

The industry is already introducing features like adaptive cruise control, crash-imminent braking and semi-automated, hands-free driving like GM's 'Super Cruise' feature to make roads safer.

GM and other automakers have emphasized that even with hands-free driving, drivers will still have to maintain attention on the road.

Developing connected car technologies is a high priority with the U.S. Department of Transportation, a view shared in Japan and Europe. Once cars can also communicate with other vehicles, the gains will be exponential, Barra said.

Commercializing a fully automated vehicle may take until the next decade however, the CEO added.

Urban Americans travel 5.5 billion more hours and purchase an extra 2.9 billion gallons of fuel each year due to traffic congestion, she said, citing outside data.

By 2016, GM will make its 2017 model Cadillac CTS available for purchase, a sedan that will come equipped with vehicle-to-vehicle technology. The car will only be able to communicate with similarly equipped vehicles and it will take some time for the industry to introduce the technology broadly, GM officials confirmed before Barra's speech.

U.S. regulators are still finalizing requirements for these technologies. Likewise, cyber security protections need to be created so that sensitive data isn't accessed while CTS owners are driving.

GM will release Super Cruise as an option in 2016, which allows hands-free highway driving at both highway and stop-and-go speeds. The option also features lane following, speed control and braking in a new, unnamed 2017 Cadillac model.

The feature's cost was not announced by the automaker however. Both the CTS sedan and the Cadillac with Super Cruise will be available in the U.S. however.

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