Have you ever dreamed of riding in car that drives by itself? Thanks to General Motors, that fantasy may soon become a reality.
GM is in the final stages of developing a car that can stay in its lane, steer away from danger, apply breaks when needed, completely on its own, nearly eliminating the possibility of a collision.
"The vehicle can take complete control and take you to your destination - in comfort, and safety, and security," Don Butler. Vice President of Marketing for Cadillac told ABC News. "We can foresee the day when vehicles will be able to completely avoid collisions."
It's been a carmaker's dream since George Jetson sat in his driverless, flying car. Now, it is just years away.
"I think it's highly likely that before the end of this decade, we'll be in driving modes that will be semi-autonomous," said Butler. "Steering will be controlled by the vehicle. Speed will be controlled by the vehicle. Your direction will be controlled by the vehicle."
ABC News was given the first national television look at GM's new Supercruise feature, which gives a vehicle the ability to totally avoid accidents by driving itself, or "with your [the driver] hands in your pockets," as Butler says.
The prototype for the new Supercruise feature uses radar, cameras and GPS to drive itself -- with a push of a button. Motorists use the car with no hands on the steering wheel and feet off the pedals, and are essentially able to look away entirely.
The technology is designed to keep the vehicle in its lane and at a safe distance from the car in front of it. The car will also apply the brakes to avoid a collision, even when a car driving 30 miles slower suddenly pulls in front of it.
At anytime the driver can take back control of the vehicle. But on the highway, when driving is the least fun and humans are easily distracted, Supercruise can safely navigate the hazards.
"I think what will be truly amazing is to be in a situation where you're inside the vehicle and it's a circumstance where you don't need to, as I said, enjoy the driving experience, and the vehicle can take complete control and take you to your destination – in comfort, and safety, and security," Butler said. "We want to make sure that the driver's aware of their surroundings and what's going on, and also to provide the most safest, and again the most enjoyable driving experience as possible. It's about safety, but it's also about the driver being engaged and knowing what's going on, as well," he said.
Supercruise is now in its final stages of development, as GM is designing driver-friendly controls. The company expects the technology to be in cars as early as the 2015 model year.
The technology that built the Supercruise, according to Butler, could also result in a not-so-distant future where highways, city streets and country roads are accident-free.
"We can see in terms of where the technology is headed that we'll have the capability to deliver...those systems, such that vehicles can completely avoid accidents," Butler said. "There are a lot of regulatory, legal, and societal things that have to come into play, in order...to make that a reality, but we can definitely see it from the standpoint of what the technology is enabling us to do today, as well as the steps that we're taking to proceed in a cautious way to move in that direction."
- Don Butler