Like most people, I’m supremely confident in the power of my opinions. Give me five minutes to persuade and you’ll renounce your silly notions and cry joyous thanks that the oppressive veil of wrongness was lifted by my enlightening words. Granted, this is my opinion of my opinions. The fact is that I may, sometimes, be wrong, and there is some percentage of cases—oh, 93 percent—where my sage wisdom butts against the impregnable wall of entrenched belief. But I’m ever optimistic about the power of my rightness, which is why I arranged for my friend Skip to drive a Cadillac CT6 with Super Cruise. Skip disdains driver-assist systems. Super Cruise, I knew, would make him a convert.
Skip’s commute takes him along I-95 in Miami, where area lunatics coagulate in a traffic scrum that moves at either 0.8 mph or 105 mph. Nobody stays in the same lane for more than 200 feet, and the demographic mix is a volatile brew of hardened locals and terrified out-of-towners in rental Dodge Journeys. Skip loves driving; the longest-tenured car in his stable is a Mercedes-Benz CLK63 AMG Black Series, which should tell you where his priorities lie. But even the most committed driving purist doesn’t have fun on I-95. So I proposed that Skip try Super Cruise in a CT6 Platinum, which has the Blackwing twin-turbo V-8. Best of both worlds, I say: Let the car drive the crappy part of the route, then you can play with its 500 horses on the back roads.
In case you couldn’t tell, I’m a proponent of Super Cruise. It is, in my totally correct opinion, the best driver-assist system available, and it’s the only one that lets you take your hands off the wheel for extended periods of time. It originally worked on limited-access divided highways only, but a map update has made Super Cruise available on some roads with cross traffic. The system keeps improving, and you can often cover 50 miles at a time without touching the wheel. Granted, you still have to pay attention to the road—a camera on the steering column ensures that your eyes are up and, importantly, open. But I maintain that long trips are less stressful when your car shares some of the driving. Skip, I was sure, would see it my way, too.
The day he got the car, he called me while on I-95. He had his friend Erik drive so that he could narrate and coach him through how to use the system. I explained how to activate it, and soon enough, Skip reported that the LED strip across the top of the steering wheel was green, meaning Super Cruise was active. “Okay, it’s driving,” he said. “That’s pretty cool! It leaves your hands free for—” Sorry, what, Skip? You broke up there for a sec.
Miami being Miami, it took roughly 10 seconds before Skip wanted to change lanes. I heard him bark at Erik: “Okay, hit the turn signal! Let’s see it change lanes!” I explained that Super Cruise, uh, doesn’t do that—at least, not on the CT6. “It can’t change lanes?” Skip said incredulously. “My S-class does that.” Which is a good point, as illustrated by Cadillac’s forthcoming version of the system that will enable such functionality, but it was interesting to hear how fast Skip’s expectations rose. Electronic magic is the kind most quickly taken for granted.
I listened in as Skip and Erik tore through Florida in a 500-horse Cadillac that can sort of drive itself. There seemed to be begrudging admiration interspersed with bountiful cursing at other drivers, which I’m certain would have happened anyway. Later that week, I checked in with Skip to see what he thought. The verdict: Blackwing, yes. Super Cruise . . . meh. “I still don’t get it,” he said. “If I have to sit there and pay attention, what’s that doing for me? If I can’t take a nap or read the paper, what’s the point?” I said something about how it’s still a stress reducer to let the car take over sometimes, but as I said it, even I became less convinced. Skip was talking me out of my opinion. Because he has a point.
Super Cruise does what it does extremely well but only when it’s doing it. And therein lies the problem with autonomy: Until it’s everything, it’s never enough.
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