GM Has Long Envisioned a Day When Cars Don’t Crash

Company has long history of intelligent and connected driving technology development


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DETROIT – Despite the recent flood of interest, intelligent and connected cars are not a new concept created in Silicon Valley. General Motors has led the development of advanced safety technology for decades and the automaker has long envisioned a day when vehicles don’t crash.

“Through innovation, we are working hard on the advancement of intelligent and connected driving technologies that will make driving safer and more efficient,” said Jon Lauckner, GM chief technology officer, vice president of Global R&D and president of GM Ventures. “Throughout GM’s history, a variety of concept vehicles and advanced production technologies have allowed us to continue to push the boundaries of our own innovation.

“We are on a journey that one day, in the not so distant future, intelligent and connected vehicle technologies could help eliminate the crash altogether.”

Here is a look at some of GM’s significant milestones – concept vehicles, research projects and technology introductions – over the past 60 years designed to advance the development of intelligent and connected driving technologies and make cars that don’t crash a reality. 

1956 – Firebird II Concept Vehicle

Resembling a torpedo by design, the Firebird II was a statement of confidence. This family car concept had an electronic brain that connected to a future highway called the Safety Autoway, equipped with a metallic conductor embedded in the roadway. As drivers entered the highway, they could radio the control tower to indicate their desire to go into automatic mode. At that point the driver would merge onto the lane with the conductor and let the “electronic brain” take over.

The Firebird II also had an early concept of infotainment with one screen that displayed navigation and practical information like when to refuel. Another screen featured a communication system to interact with other drivers or just watch television in the car. No mention as to whether or not the TV was in color.  

1959 – Cadillac Cyclone Concept Vehicle

The quest to reach the moon was clearly on the minds of Americans as the Cadillac Cyclone styling borrowed many styling cues from a space ship. But the car’s “twin domes,” which pointed forward and were located directly in front of the wheels, were not for looks alone. They held “proximity sensing units” that could detect other vehicles or objects and warn the driver with a sound or light.

While not an automated vehicle, the Cyclone sensors were a significant concept for 1959. Today, vehicles’ driver assist technologies like lane keep assist and adaptive cruise control use cameras and sensors to help maintain the driver’s safety. As these technologies advance, they bring closer a vehicle that will allow a driver to safely remove his or her hands from the wheel.

1996 – Debut of OnStar

OnStar was the industry’s first embedded telematics system in 1996. Originally launching on the Cadillac Deville, Seville and Eldorado, OnStar first offered Airbag Deployment Notification, so if the airbags in a vehicle deployed, OnStar could contact the vehicle and send help directly to the scene.

Today, OnStar serves more than 7 million subscribers in the U.S., Canada, China and Mexico. The telematics unit has expanded its service offerings to include Advanced Automatic Crash Notification, which alerts an OnStar advisor if there’s been a moderate-to-severe crash, and can provide critical crash information – direction of impact, multiple impacts, rollover, etc. – so that first responders can be better informed.

1998 – Buick LeSabre Automated Highway Research Project and XP2000 Concept Vehicle

Tens of thousands of high-strength magnets were outfitted on a 7.6 mile stretch of highway in Southern California to demonstrate modified Buick LeSabres that could steer, accelerate and brake without driver input.

Around the same time, Buick unveiled the XP2000 Concept car that used a more advanced version of the Automated Highway to allow the driver to divert attention away from the road – and the wheel – while the car not only cruised to a destination, but also featured a “Smart Card” that could pay road toll, fuel charges and perform other services.

2000 – Automotive Collision Avoidance System Project

A series of Buick LeSabres were equipped with sensors and instruments that made the cars more aware of the surrounding traffic and environment. They could detect potential dangers and warn the driver, a big step toward the eventual development of vehicle-to-x communication.

Heralded as one of the most comprehensive field tests of its time, the outfitted LeSabres were loaned to drivers for two-week trials in order to collect data and learn how these technologies could be perfected and used by customers.

2005 – V2V and V2I Concept Technology

In November of 2005, GM was the first automaker to demonstrate vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) technology combined with automatic braking. If the vehicle read that a crash was imminent, it sent alerts to the driver. If the driver did not respond, the vehicle could safely bring the car to a stop to prevent the driver from joining a potential pile-up.

V2V communication allows vehicles to send and receive from each other basic information such as location, speed and direction of travel. Vehicle-to-Infrastructure (V2I) communication shares information about traffic signal phase, road attributes and surface conditions. Each technology has the potential to mitigate traffic collisions and congestion.

2007 – The ‘Boss’ Wins 2007 DARPA Urban Challenge Contest

The “Boss,” a self-driving Chevrolet Tahoe, claimed first prize at the DARPA Urban Challenge, a competition created by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency whose goal was to help accelerate technology development in military transportation.

GM partnered with Carnegie Mellon University and others to develop the “Boss,” a fully autonomous vehicle equipped with software and computer controls for driving along with several radars, lasers and cameras for situation assessment. The Boss outdid vehicle entries from 35 other teams as it navigated a 60-mile course without a driver or remote control in urban settings complete with merging traffic, stop signs, speed limits and busy intersections.

2010 – Chevrolet EN-V Concept Vehicle Debuts at Shanghai World Expo

Evolving personal mobility is about addressing serious global issues like urbanization and environmentalism. That was the goal of the EN-V which debuted at the 2010 Shanghai World Expo. The EN-V was envisioned as a possible solution to predictions that 60 percent of the world’s population would live in urban areas by 2030, straining public infrastructure.

EN-V is a small, two-seat electric vehicle that combined Global Positioning System (GPS) with V2V technologies, resulting in a concept vehicle that could park itself, find the fastest route and transport occupants in an environmentally clean, safe and efficient manner.

2012 – Super Cruise Media Demonstration

In spring of 2012, GM unveiled Super Cruise, an automated driving technology that the company had been quietly developing for a number of years. GM began demonstrating the feature at the Milford Proving Ground to a select group of media.

Super Cruise can assist in highway driving, including hands-off lane following, braking and speed control under certain driving conditions. The system is designed to help the driver on freeways, whether in bumper-to-bumper traffic jams or on long road trips.

Cadillac’s Super Cruise technology uses a variety of seamlessly integrated sensors including cameras, radar, GPS and map data to enhance the driving experience.

2012 – GM Participates in US DOT’s V2V Safety Pilot Research Project

GM helped drive a critical phase of V2V and V2I communications technology development by providing eight specially equipped vehicles for a year of real-world testing.


The V2V-equipped Buick and Cadillac cars were a part of a larger fleet of passenger cars, commercial trucks and transit vehicles participating in the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Connected Vehicle Safety Pilot Model Deployment Program.

The V2V vehicles GM provided were production-viable integrated systems capable of sending and receiving information from other vehicles, and warning drivers when the potential for a collision was detected. For the V2I portion of the program, 73 lane-miles of Ann Arbor, Mich. roadway were instrumented with 29 roadside-equipment installations.

2013 – Sensor Fusion Debuts in All-New Cadillac XTS

When Cadillac launched the all-new XTS in 2012, GM introduced the most technologically advanced production car in the luxury brand’s history. The vehicle was offered with the Driver Assist Package, an advanced suite of active safety technologies supported by sensor fusion, which enables the integration of a broad range of sensing and positioning technologies that can alert drivers of road hazards and help them avoid crashes.

The system’s use of radar, cameras and ultrasonic sensors enables advanced safety features, including:

·         Rear Automatic Braking

·         Full-Speed Range Adaptive Cruise Control

·         Intelligent Brake Assist

·         Forward Collision Alert

·         Automatic Collision Preparation

This sensor fusion system is a building block in the development of future automated driving technologies. It will enable future active safety systems to handle a greater number of inputs to provide 360 degrees of crash risk detection and enhanced driver assist features.

2014 – Automated Chevrolet EN-V 2.0 Concept Vehicle  

As an innovative, automated four-wheeled, zero-emission electric vehicle concept, the EN-V 2.0 aims to contribute to sustainable mobility by reducing congestion and pollution. This vehicle uses a combination of sensors, Lidar, V2V and GPS technology to safely self-drive through low-speed areas.

In June of this year, GM demonstrated a non-autonomous version of the vehicle for two weeks in the Tianjin Eco-City. The vehicle can travel about 25 miles on a single charge and two EN-V 2.0s can fit into a parking spot intended for a typical vehicle.

Next – Super Cruise to Launch in New 2017 Cadillac Model

Super Cruise, the technology explained earlier, will appear for the first time on an all-new Cadillac that’s going to enter a segment where the luxury automaker does not currently compete today.

Next – GM to Introduce V2V Technology in 2017 Cadillac CTS

GM announced it will introduce V2V technology on the 2017 Cadillac CTS. V2V technologies can enable new types of driver assist applications that notify drivers of traffic events that may be beyond the driver's line of sight. For example, such potential applications can detect a vehicle ahead that unexpectedly brakes hard or encounters a hazardous road condition such as black ice or a severe pothole. As more vehicles and more infrastructure are equipped with the technology, it will increasingly be able to supplement active safety features to help avoid crashes.

General Motors Co. (NYSE:GM, TSX: GMM) and its partners produce vehicles in 30 countries, and the company has leadership positions in the world's largest and fastest-growing automotive markets. GM, its subsidiaries and joint venture entities sell vehicles under the Chevrolet, Cadillac, Baojun, Buick, GMC, Holden, Jiefang, Opel, Vauxhall and Wuling brands. More information on the company and its subsidiaries, including OnStar, a global leader in vehicle safety, security and information services, can be found at  


The 1956 Firebird II concept car

The 1956 Firebird II concept car was one of the industry’s first vehicle concepts that explored automated driving. The concept had an electronic brain that connected to a future highway called the Safety Autoway, which was equipped with metallic conductor embedded in the roadway. The conductor would allow the car to drive in automated mode.


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