GM Authority‘s constantly vigilant spy photographers recently spotted a 2021 GMC Yukon fitted with equipment which leads us to believe the vehicle is being used in the development program for the upcoming Ultra Cruise semi-autonomous driver assistance system.
The Yukon, seen on roads near GM’s Milford Proving Grounds in Michigan, has clearly visible sensors below the grille, plus two at the front and rear of the roof. It is possible that more have been fitted to the rear, but if so they are not visible in the photo.
Ultra Cruise equipment has also been seen on Cadillacs, most recently a CT4-V heavily laden with sensors and cameras, and followed by a CT6. A 2020 CT5 with equipment very similar to that seen on the CT4-V was also spotted in February of this year.
Production models obviously won’t have such visible signs that Ultra Cruise has been fitted. However, the prototype vehicles we have seen are likely being used to help develop and refine the hardware and software which will become the foundation of this – and perhaps future driver assistance systems.
Ultra Cruise represents the next step forward from Super Cruise, the hands-free system which first became available in the 2018 Cadillac CT6 and has since been updated to include automated lane change functionality.
Super Cruise can be used only on compatible highways, of which there are around 200,000 miles in the U.S. and Canada and approximately a further 180,000 in China. Ultra Cruise will include the ability to operate on city streets, among other functions which “will enhance safety and provide the driver with more convenience,” in the words of GM CEO Mary Barra.
It is important to note that neither Super Cruise nor Ultra Cruise is a fully autonomous system. Both require the driver to watch the road ahead and make inputs when necessary.
Ultra Cruise is expected to make its debut in the 2022 calendar year, appearing in luxury brand Cadillac models before it spreads to other GM brands.