QOTD: Checking in on Hands-Free

Tim Healey
by Tim Healey

I or another staffer has probably asked this QOTD before, and it will probably come up again, but hands-free driving is fresh in my mind.

I am testing a Cadillac CT4 (an underrated car, by the way) this week and it's my first time using Super Cruise. I had my first taste of Ford's BlueCruise last summer.

I haven't had a ton of time with either system, but I've found both work as advertised, and can do more than, say, Nissan's ProPilot. I also found that each system is limited and still requires you to be paying attention at all times, and that's almost certainly a good thing.

Perhaps most importantly, neither system is misleadingly labeled, like Tesla's Full-Self Driving system is. I've never driven a Tesla with FSD.

Like many in the industry, I am skeptical about how quickly autonomous driving will arrive -- I doubt we'll see anything resembling Level 5 autonomy anytime soon. But I can see more and more of these limited-use systems hitting the market, giving drivers a bit of a reprieve during long freeway stints.

So, I ask of you -- is this a good thing for the industry, or is it taking us towards dystopia-town? What about safety issues -- yes, we know about Tesla's issues. Those have been well-covered. But will competing systems also be a problem?

Sound off below.

[Image: Cadillac]

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Tim Healey
Tim Healey

Tim Healey grew up around the auto-parts business and has always had a love for cars — his parents joke his first word was “‘Vette”. Despite this, he wanted to pursue a career in sports writing but he ended up falling semi-accidentally into the automotive-journalism industry, first at Consumer Guide Automotive and later at Web2Carz.com. He also worked as an industry analyst at Mintel Group and freelanced for About.com, CarFax, Vehix.com, High Gear Media, Torque News, FutureCar.com, Cars.com, among others, and of course Vertical Scope sites such as AutoGuide.com, Off-Road.com, and HybridCars.com. He’s an urbanite and as such, doesn’t need a daily driver, but if he had one, it would be compact, sporty, and have a manual transmission.

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9 of 11 comments
  • Redapple2 Redapple2 on Mar 01, 2023

    Self Driving = Superfluous Complexity.

    It is of No value if you always have to be on guard -waiting to jump in.

    I find it easier to make the minor adjustments- they re second nature

    as opposed to waiting - seeing if the car will do it.

    • speed up, that guy is merging, get him in BEHIND you.
    • change lanes now, get around this guy as the passing lane is open now but wont be in 3 seconds

    and so forth

    stupid invention.

    It s all for the techie, beta boy.

    • Kendahl Kendahl on Mar 01, 2023

      "It is of No value if you always have to be on guard -waiting to jump in" because the AI misread the situation and reacted badly.

  • JMII JMII on Mar 01, 2023

    While not totally hands free I have been impressed with the combo of lane keeping and radar cruise on my Hyundai Santa Cruz, they call it Highway Driving Assist. I treat it like normal cruise control and only use it on long stretches of open highway. To test it I have used it in heavy stop and go traffic where it works pretty well, but can be confused by lane markings and stupid other driver behavior. It tends to be a little too agressive on the brakes and slow to accelerate to fill gaps. It can not do automatic lane changes so its no where near "self driving". Overall it has met my expectations. I look foward to using it in situations where I am trying to eat while driving, for example coming back from a long day of fishing where I might spend 2-3 hours on the highway after 6-8 hours on the boat.

    • See 1 previous
    • JMII JMII on Mar 01, 2023

      The SC will go for several minutes before it warns you to take the wheel. I was actually suprised at how long it would go before yelling at me. Plenty of time to open a bag of chips, wipe the mustard off my chin and get some water. Sure better then the old (and super dangerous) trick of trying to keep the wheel steady with your knees. I find on long drives my shoulders get tired from the constant minor lane corrections but with lane assist I can relax with my hands just resting on the wheel.

      I do think there should be a better system to warn when the system shuts off which happens when it can't determine the lane markers. Currently all that occurs is the little steering wheel icon in the dash just goes from green to white. I was expecting something more like the flashing visual and audio tone you get if your hands aren't on the wheel.

  • Syke Syke on Mar 01, 2023

    As I'm currently packing the Kia Sedona for the annual March trip to St. Augustine, I find this article very timely. I spend a fair bit of time on the interstate system, 7-8 reenactment trips per year. And this has me very much in favor of a Super Cruise/self-driving/whatever you call it system - as long as we're talking limited access, multi-lane, superhighways. I'd love some form of Level 5 or damn near it self-driving that enables me to flip a switch as I hit the entrance ramp on I-95 (three miles from my home), and have the car switch into automatic mode until it notifies me that the St. Augustine exit is just ahead. I'd get a hell of a lot of reading done, and have a more pleasant ten hours than what we're looking for forward to tomorrow morning.

    Just stop over-promising what you're offering, and lay out the level of driver involvement very clearly. And keep it off city streets and unrestricted roads. I still love to drive, and I certainly don't need a computer to run me thru the twisties.

    • SCE to AUX SCE to AUX on Mar 01, 2023

      Problem is, Tesla's Level 2 Autopilot can probably do what you're asking, which is how people get hooked on it. Then they forget that they are to remain vigilant.

      A mythical Level 5 system would take you door to door - no switches or decisions by you, except to tell it the destination.

  • Matt Posky Matt Posky on Mar 01, 2023

    I have read too many studies suggesting that advanced driving aids make everyone a worse driver. Note that we've seen sizable increases in fatality rates since advanced driving aids and infotainment screens became ubiquitous (not that they're the only factors). I'm also routinely annoyed by overly aggressive examples of emergency braking and lane keeping assist. Heck, even the very best hands-free systems require you to remain constantly attentive while offering a feature that's literally designed to create a more passive driving experience.

    The tech certainly is interesting and occasionally very impressive. But the overall implementation still feels terribly backward and gimmicky.

    Until these systems can literally do everything with A+ reliability in all types of weather, I'm not sure how useful they really are. Though I also have concerns about where that will take us as regulators are now trying to mandate in-cabin cameras and systems that would effectively hand vehicle controls over to the authorities on demand.

    • SCE to AUX SCE to AUX on Mar 02, 2023

      Ironically, if Level 5 was truly achieved, in-cabin cameras would become unnecessary because driver attention is no longer needed.