Consumer Reports rated Tesla’s Autopilot system a ‘distant second’ to GM’s Super Cruise.
We aren’t quite at the crossroads where drivers can completely forego physically driving their cars by way of a steering wheel and pedals just yet. Every model year, though, we get more “advanced driver assistance systems”, or ADAS, offering more safety nets that can keep drivers in control through various situations. Among those systems, two of the most sophisticated are Tesla’s Autopilot — a system the company pushes hard in all its models — and GM’s Super Cruise. The latter debuted in Cadillac’s flagship CT6 sedan, though it will fan out to more GM models in the coming years. In a new Consumer Reports evaluation covering 17 vehicles, the company’s system outpaced Tesla’s Autopilot by a wide margin.
As part of their testing, Consumer Reports does make the clear and important distinction, active driving assistance systems do not equate to self-driving. Instead, they’re designed to make the more tedious aspects of driving (long, monotonous trips and stop-and-go traffic) less stressful and tiring. The outlet’s engineers compared how these systems perform together, and rank them accordingly.
In the end, GM’s Super Cruise edged out Tesla Autopilot by 12 points, scoring 69 out of 100 possible to 57 out of 100. Tesla’s system, fitted in a Model Y, won out in the “Ease of Use” and in sheer capability and performance. When it came to lane keeping assist, that system performed the best, while Super Cruise and systems from Audi and Lincoln also performed well. In total, the Lincoln Corsair scored 52 out of 100, rounding out the podium in the ADAS testing.
Making drivers pay attention
Where Tesla’s Autopilot and other ADAS systems fell short of Super Cruise is “keeping the driver engaged”. GM’s system uses a camera system to actively monitor the driver to ensure they’re keeping their eyes on the road. “When a system is controlling a car’s speed and steering, there’s a risk that a driver might feel more free to pick up a cell phone or engage in some other reckless, distracting behavior,” Consumer Reports said. The testing weighted this category on how well the system encouraged the driver to stay actively engaged, and how clearly it informed the driver to take over the steering when they need to do it. Super Cruise, for example, will switch the green light bar atop the steering wheel to flashing blue when it needs the driver to make their own inputs.
The report also ranked contenders based on when drivers were actually able to engage the systems at all. “The latest active driving assistance systems are safest to use on long highway drives or when you’re stuck in a traffic jam—they can help reduce the driver’s fatigue and stress along the way,” Consumer Reports said. “But using these systems on narrow, curvy roads or around pedestrians can be dangerous and can create driver stress.”
For its part, Tesla Autopilot and others can be enabled in residential areas when the road had just a single center lane line. “Active driving assistance systems should only be able to be activated in low-risk driving environments, void of pedestrians and tricky situations, such as intersections and complicated traffic patterns,” the article goes on. Cadillac’s Super Cruise system is only usable on about 200,000 miles of pre-mapped, divided highways in North America.
None of this is to say that Autopilot isn’t an advanced system in its own right. In fact, its ability to take over most driving responsibilities without driver input is what endears it to most buyers. However, it’s worth noting the scoring here works toward a balance of capability and keeping the driver focused on the road, even in situations where the system is engaged. That is for the driver’s own safety as well as other motorists around them.
In a more anecdotal test, we try out the Tesla Model Y’s autopilot system below: