GM is taking on Tesla’s Autopilot with a self-driving system that tracks your eyes

2016 Cadillac CT6
A Cadillac instrument panel. Cadillac

General Motors semi-autonomous driving system will have one high-tech feature that its competitors don’t: An eye-tracking system.

The company plans to launch the system, called Super Cruise, on its Cadillac CT6 next year. And according to a report from the Wall Street Journal, Super Cruise’s eye-tracking tech will enable the system to better monitor whether the driver is paying attention or not.

For example, if a driver falls asleep at the wheel while Super Cruise is activated, the system will detect that the driver’s gaze has drifted and the car will begin to send visual and audio alerts to get the person’s attention. If the driver still doesn’t respond, an operator from the company’s OnStar service will try to make contact with the driver. If all of these alerts fail, the car will then pull over to the side of the road.

2016 Cadillac CT6
Super Cruise can actually pull your car over safely. Cadillac

Other semi-autonomous systems, like Tesla’s Autopilot, differ in that they primarily rely on sensors built into the steering wheel to detect when a driver isn’t paying attention. If a driver takes his or her hands off the wheel for too long, the system then sends audio and visual alerts to get the driver to keep his or her hands on the wheel.

While this strategy is mostly effective, critics argue there should be more safeguards in place to ensure the driver is paying attention because these systems still have a number of limitations.

For example, they are only meant for highway use, and most rely on lane markings to operate correctly. Because of these limitations, it’s critical that the driver is always prepared to take control in case the car runs into a problem it doesn’t know how to handle.

To address this problem, automakers are all working to create an interface that helps ensure the driver is aware.

Sensors in the steering wheel and in the seat will continue to play a role in gauging the driver’s awareness, but it’s likely we’ll also begin to see eye-tracking tech become more common as car companies try to figure out the best way to monitor a driver’s behaviour while the car is in self-driving mode.

In fact, Audi has already committed to using eye tracking tech in future cars and Toyota is already using it some cars as a safety feature.

GM has not revealed how much its Super Cruise system will cost or details about all of its capabilities.

But Lyndon Lie, GM’s chief vehicle engineer for luxury cars, told Business Insider in a recent interview that Super Cruise will be more reliable than other systems.

“We are taking a lot of lessons learned from our competitors and evaluating their cars as well,” Lie said. “I think we will have an overall safer system. It will be more reliable, people will be more comfortable with it.”

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