Not long ago, Motor Trend broke the news that Cadillac's Super Cruise is only free for the first three years, after which the Level 2 autonomy system moves to subscription pricing. MT's report came on the eve of 2018-model-year Cadillac CT6 buyers being asked whether they wished to retain access to their Super Cruise. A few days after that report, Cadillac said it would give those first-year buyers of the technology — "the helpful adopters" — another free year, so they'll need to make a decision in August 2021 along with the 2019MY CT6 buyers. After a bit of digging by other outlets, it seems Motor Trend broke the Super Cruise news primarily to members of the media (including us); the details in the report have been communicated to customers in fine print in at least two places.
First, let's clarify that the subscription is for OnStar, not Super Cruise only. Cadillac has made clear since the beginning that the tech needs an active OnStar plan, a Wi-Fi Hotspot, a working electrical system, cell reception, and a GPS signal to work. Knowing that, and knowing OnStar is only free for one month on new vehicles — GM shortened the free trial last year from three or six months — before requiring a subscription, might have encouraged someone to ask the question before now (we didn't...). In response to Jonathan Gitlin at Ars Technica asking Twitter about who knew, Bozi Tatarevic responded, "It might not have been released in the press materials but I remember reading about it in the order guide documents for the CT6 and noting that it was tied to OnStar and would eventually require a plan that started at like $25 per month." And Tatarevic pointed to this snippet in The Philadelphia Inquirer review of the CT6 from 2018: "The Super Cruise feature is part of OnStar and is free for three years. OnStar advertises subscriptions from $24.99 to $59.99 a month."
If Super Cruise is only free as long as OnStar is free, then new car buyers now will get the tech for one month. Owners who cancel OnStar or choose a plan that doesn't include Super Cruise will still benefit from adaptive cruise control and lane-centering.
The automaker hasn't said what Super Cruise pricing will be, but the OnStar site apparently reveals the answer. There are six plans listed on the Compare Plans page, but two are combinations of other plans. The bottom of the chart shows Super Cruise is included with the Unlimited Access plan for $24.99 per month, and the Safety & Security + Unlimited Access plan for $44.99 per month. If that's accurate come decision time next year, Super Cruise will cost either $300 or $540 per year, provided as another one of OnStar's suite of services. The Unlimited tier offers 14 driver assistance aids outside of Super Cruise, Security + Unlimited offers 20.
Making Super Cruise contingent on a subscription shouldn't be a surprise. It's software that needs constant updating to remain relevant and improve, and as carmakers turn increasingly into software companies, we should expect some software company methods. Cadillac added 70,000 miles of validated roads last year, taking the total beyond 200,000 miles, and this year added new sensors that enable automated lane changes. The CT6 won't get that functionality because it doesn't have the sensors, nor the new electrical platform to make them work, but the CT4, CT5, and Escalade will.
Tesla has already said it's moving Full Self Driving to a subscription plan before the year is out. Ford is making its Navigation + Trail Apps service on SYNC4 on the Bronco a subscription service after three free months, and we're still waiting for pricing information on Ford's Active Drive Assist feature, the one that costs as much as $6,920 to option on a 2021 F-150 Lariat now, but won't be installed until next year via an over-the-air update for additional cost, and, perhaps, a subscription pricing model.