High-Tech Problem Solvers

GM boasts that new safety technologies are keeping crashes at bay

General Motors says that their safety technology is helping to save lives.

Photo courtesy of General Motors

General Motors is one of many automakers with the goal of eliminating vehicle crashes. The company recently partnered with the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute to study the effectiveness the safety and driver assistance technology the company offers on its vehicles.

The study included the results of 3.7 million crashes, which occurred in 20 different GM models from 2013 to 2017. Here are some of the study's key findings:

  • Automatic Emergency Braking (or Forward Automatic Braking) with Forward Collision Alert reduced rear-end striking crashes by 46%.
  • Lane Keep Assist with Lane Departure Warning reduced lane departure-related crashes by 20%.
  • Lane Change Alert with Side Blind Zone Alert reduced lane change crashes by 26%.
  • Rear Vision Camera alone, Rear Park Assist functionality, Rear Cross Traffic Alert (which nearly always includes the two previous backing features) and Reverse Automatic Braking (which includes all the previous backing features) produced, respectively, an estimated 21%, 38%, 52%, and 81% reduction in backing crashes.
  • IntelliBeam and High-Intensity Discharge headlight features provided 35% and 21% reductions, respectively, in nighttime pedestrian/bicyclist/animal crashes, with a 49% reduction when offered together.

General Motors Safety OnStar graph chart An analysis of crash results by General Motors and the University of Michigan has revealed that GM technologies help lessen the effects of crashes.Photo courtesy of General Motors

General Motors has made numerous safety technologies standard and available across its model lines. Buyers can purchase models that have some or all of the safety and driver assistance technologies that are cited as resulting in major crash reductions.

The Cruise Origin self-driving vehicle has been revealed.

Photo courtesy of Cruise LLC

Cruise has passed on a steering wheel, a rearview mirror, and pedals in its new Origin electric vehicle. The ride share mobility solution debuted last night in San Francisco was co-developed by the arm of General Motors in cooperation with Honda.

In addition to the self-driving aspect of the news, the biggest innovation with the vehicle is that it is nothing like the any other GM alternative fuel mobility solution. There's not really speck of Bolt in the design.

It's actually more like the Navy shuttle than the Bolt, resembling the most modern of train cars. Its exterior is smooth and not aerodynamic. Its sliding doors open wide via a sliding mechanism rather than outward like a traditional car door. There's a display area featuring a number on the outside of the vehicle to help with rider-vehicle identification.

The Origin is the same size as a full-size sedan but seats six in a different configuration than the typical car. It has a 78-inch height, which means it can still park in most garages.

Inside, the vehicle seats six on two sets of three seats that share a large space for legroom and bags.

What's more notable is what the Origin is lacking. There's no driver's seat, pedals, steering wheel, windshield wipers, gauges, nor rearview mirror. Because there's no driver, there's no need for that. Cruise has said that the vehicle features SAE Level 4 autonomy. In layman's terms, that means that a computer controls all the functionality of the vehicle and is contained within its service area only by things like a speed limiter or geofence.

Its software has been co-developed by GM and Honda.

Cruise hasn't divulged powertrain or range information.

In January, the federal government released a new set of guidelines concerning self-driving vehicles.

Under Cruise's plans, no individual will own the Origin. The ride sharing vehicles will be summoned via an app and offer ride service to anywhere in the vehicle's service area. The defined regions of the service area and fares associated with a ride have yet to be announced.

So, it's just an app-controlled electric short bus, right? Yes.

Cruise says that the model is ready for production and plans to that end will be announced shortly.

A new technology developed by General Motors may change the trailering experience as we know it, making it safer for everyone involved.

Photo courtesy of Chevrolet

For some folks, towing a trailer is second nature. It's like riding a bicycle or going for a swim. But for a vast majority of others, towing can be intimidating, scary and even downright dangerous. No matter what category you fall into, truck makers have been working feverishly to come up with new and exciting technologies to make towing easier and safer for you.

One of the biggest challenges of towing, at least at speed, is the abrupt need to come to a stop. Whether it be someone pull out in front of you or the traffic light turned red sooner than you'd expect. Towing down a grade in high winds can create even more issues.

eBoost braking assist trailer This diagram shows the impact of the new eBoost technology.Photo courtesy of General Motors

To help with towing and stopping, electronic trailer brake controllers are common on rigs that tow. They help control the trailer by apply the brakes in the trailer. Setting up a trailer brake control is often described as an art, not a science.

That's where new General Motors tech comes in. Using their electronic brake system from their heavy-duty pickup, the company has fitted it to a trailer for the purpose of improving braking. Their goal was to equip a trailer with the company's eBoost braking system and see how well they could stop with it.

Their goal was to take a 2020 Silverado HD without a trailer and see how far it took to stop. Then they attached a trailer with 9,000 pounds and set a target of stopping in the same distance. They were within three feet.

That means in a full-on, emergency stop scenario a truck towing a 9,000-pound trailer can stop as short as a truck without a trailer. Not to overwhelm you with hyperbole, but that is a game changer.

Why? There's no complicated setup of the trailer brake controller. The equipment already exists, and GM managed to do it with around $1,000 worth of hardware that's already available. It would require a trailer manufacturer to integrate it with their trailers, but the safety benefits are huge.

Unlike some aftermarket anti-lock braking systems, primarily from Bosch, this system communicates with the truck, and can even use electronic stability control to reduce trailer sway.

It's a prototype at this point. GM is hoping to find a trailer maker to help develop the technology. The marketing department is still figuring out all of the details, but in addition to offering it on a brand-new trailer, it might even be possible for certain dealerships or installers to add it to existing trailers after the fact.

While there is a truck war going on with how can tow and haul the most, the efforts that GM is making right now for improving towing safety, such as their invisible trailering system and this prototype trailer brake system, makes the roads safer for everyone – even if they don't drive a GM.