When they call something “Ultra” you know it must be good. Ultra is an adjective, as defined by Merriam-Webster, that means “going beyond others or beyond due limit.” There’s Michelob Ultra. There’s Charmin Ultra Strong Bathroom Tissue. There’s Mono Ultra Exterior Caulking. There’s the Nerf Ultra 2 Motorized Blaster. They’re all Ultra.
We can now add General Motor’s “Ultra Cruise” to the list of products going beyond others.
Its details were announced on October 6, and it’s due for rollout in 2023 on future Cadillac models. Ultra Cruise is, according to its press release, “an all-new, advanced driver-assistance technology and significant next step in the company’s journey to enable its goal of zero crashes, zero emissions and zero congestion. Designed to ultimately enable hands-free driving in 95 per cent of all driving scenarios, Ultra Cruise eventually can be used on every paved road in the U.S. and Canada.”
In other words, it’s Ultra.
It’s hard to know how to feel about the arrival of Ultra Cruise. How will hands-free capability improve our lives? What will our hands do with all the free time? Was holding a steering wheel that taxing? Will it be beneficial to have our hands free when we drive through the hellscape climate-change-ignited forest fires of the future? Will we need our hands free to bail out our highways’ future flood waters?
Luckily, Doug Parks, GM executive vice president of Global Product Development, Purchasing and Supply Chain, is there to provide direction. “Ultra Cruise is not just a game changer in terms of what it enables – a door-to-door hands-free driving experience − but a technological one as well,” says Parks.
Ultra Cruise is a “game changer.”
Game Changing, by definition of Merriam-Webster, means “a newly introduced element or factor that changes an existing situation or activity in a significant way.” This means Ultra Cruise will shake up the hands-free market. Experts say it will take on Tesla’s Full Self-Driving technology for market share. Ultra Cruise will cover over two million miles of paved road in Canada and the United States. GM hopes to increase that coverage up to 3.4 million miles and allow GM drivers to use Ultra Cruise on most “city streets, subdivision streets and paved rural roads, in addition to highways.”
Ultra Cruise is an upgrade from Super Cruise, which is currently available in GM vehicles such as the Chevy Silverado. Super, by definition of Merriam-Webster, means “of high grade or quality” (so, good but not as good as Ultra).
Like most new car technology designed for mass consumption, Ultra Cruise is the result of scientific design and engineering that staggers the mind. We are truly living in an age of miracles and monsters, and if you need any more proof, Super Cruise’s usurper is there to prove it.
GM reports that Ultra Cruise “works through a combination of cameras, radars and LiDAR, developing accurate, 360-degree, three-dimensional statistical representations of the environment surrounding vehicles with redundancies in critical areas.”
Huh? Tell you what GM, I’m going to just accept that it’s good. Don’t try to explain things to me – just stick the word Ultra in front of it. I’m good.
Ultra Cruise has a “Human Machine Interface,” which sounds like something people went through in the film Logan’s Run prior to being terminated in “Carrousel.” Don’t worry, in reality, it means that system presents information to the “driver and communicates when they need to be in control of the vehicle.” So your Cadillac will tell you when you can drive it.
You don’t have to be a technical wizard to know that Ultra Cruise and its ilk will make driving safer. Anything that stops people from controlling vehicles is sure to reduce dangers. Almost all car collisions are caused by driver error.
Will driving be less fun? If you ask me, yes. I’ll miss having my hands on the wheel. I’ll miss driving without being tracked by some navigating system. My ultimate driving machine will always be a 1971 Chevelle.
Still … Ultra.