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General Motors to offer hands-free driving by 2016

The automaker says that its cars will be equipped with vehicle-to-vehicle technology and driverless control in the next few years.

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Credit: GM

General Motors plans to introduce vehicles with improved communications technology and autonomous driving capabilities within the next few years.

The automaker's chief executive, Mary Barra, said Sunday that GM will release a car equipped with Wi-Fi-based vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) technology within two years, as well as hands-free driving capabilities. Speaking in Detroit during her keynote address at the Intelligent Transport System (ITS) World Congress, Barra said an all-new 2017 Cadillac vehicle, due for release in 2016, will offer the hands-free 'Super Cruise' technology as well as the inclusion of V2V features.

Barra said:

"A tide of innovation has invigorated the global auto industry, and we are taking these giant leaps forward to remain a leader of new technology. We are not doing this for the sake of the technology itself. We’re doing it because it’s what customers around the world want. Through technology and innovation, we will make driving safer."

The executive claims that GM's V2V technology will reduce the rate of traffic accidents and ease traffic congestion, as vehicles will be able to receive basic safety information such as location, speed and direction of travel if they are approaching each other. This can be used to warn drivers of impending collisions or traffic jams.

A recent US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) study estimated that the economic impact of vehicle crashes in the country is over $870 billion per year.

In addition, Super Cruise, GM's automated driving technology, will allow drivers to stay hands-off in particular conditions. For example, Super Cruise can be used on highways for hands-off lane following, braking and speed control. However, the driver will be expected to "pay attention," according to John Capp, director of the firm's global safety strategy.

Barra commented:

"I’m convinced customers will embrace (vehicle-to-vehicle) and automated driving technologies for one simple reason: They are the answer to everyday problems that people want solved."

General Motor's announcements follow the recall of millions of vehicles containing defective ignition switches, something the automaker knew about in 2004 but failed to act upon. It is believed the fault is responsible for a number of deaths. As a result, GM's CEO said "terrible things happened" due to the defect and how it was handled, but "we will be better because of this tragic situation if we seize the opportunity."

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