In this video diary, Patti Waldmeir, FT North America correspondent, takes a long ride from Chicago to Cleveland to see what it feels like being driven by computers and satellites in the driverless Cadillac.
Produced by Natalie Whittle. Filmed by Patti Waldmeir. Edited by Clem Hitchcock. Graphics by Russell Birkett.
I'm sitting here in the driver's seat of a car that drives itself. I've been waiting for this my whole life. This is a Cadillac CT6 sedan with super cruise. It can drive itself, so it's an early version of the car of the future. But pretty soon, we'll all be driving around in cars like this.
OK, so we're setting off on our 300-mile journey across the Midwest.
Now I'm about to engage the super cruise for the first time. There. OK, so I hit green. And now I can take my hands off.
So it's going around a curve on its own. This is so scary. Oh my god. This is-- ah!
And hopefully, the car will slow down. I'm going to move my feet away and my hands away. OK wait. Here is my hands. You can see them. Hands are not on the wheel. And I'm now just going to sit back and relax, and let it drive me.
So I'm going to turn on my seat massager now to take full advantage of this new technology. Oh yeah, there it goes. It's getting my lower back. And I think I'm going to leave this on for the entire journey.
So now, we're driving through the Ohio countryside outside Toledo, which is one of the capitals of the US rust belt. So my first impression of this is that I can see why people easily get distracted. Cadillac says that this is the world's first truly hands-free driving system for motorways. And what they mean by that is on the Tesla autopilot, you have to put your hands back on the wheel every now and then to prove that you're paying attention.
Cadillac is trying a different technology. It's the camera on the steering column that detects whether or not I'm paying attention by looking at my eyes and the movement of my head. And eventually, I will be able to go to sleep on the way from Cleveland to Chicago and only wake up when I get there.
So far, it hasn't been nearly as scary as I thought it would be to drive this car. And that's really important to how successful this is going to be because this car is Cadillac and GM's answer to Tesla. And in a lot of ways, it's Detroit's answer to Silicon Valley.
But hey, the only thing I'm wondering about is I love driving. Am I still going to love driving when I'm not really doing it myself?
So now I'm going to show you what happens if I am not paying attention. Here's what the car does. It's flashing green now. That means it's detected that I'm not paying attention.
And there it makes a sound, and it flashes red. And I have to put my hands back on the wheel in order to get it to resume. And now I've put it back into self-driving mode.
So now we've driven nearly 200 miles. And we're driving on a back road in Indiana. This is the kind of situation where fully autonomous cars-- fully self-driving cars are probably not going to be in a situation like this for a very long time.
One of the things that consumers worry about is being afraid of self-driving car technology. And I do understand that. But I do think that that trust develops very quickly.
So now we're nearing the end of our 369-mile journey so far. And we're just in rush hour traffic in the city of Chicago, as the car drives itself, slows itself down, and deals with the congestion.