Reviews | To help. I fell in love with this Cadillac Escalade.

The main limitation of Super Cruise is geographical. Unlike Tesla’s system, which can be activated on just about any road, Super Cruise can only be engaged on the few hundred thousand miles of US roads mapped by GM. In practice, that means it works on most state and interstate highways. I wasn’t tracking, but I estimate he was available for about two-thirds of our trip.

The system takes some getting used to; there’s a bit of jitters the first few times you turn it on – you keep your hands on the wheel just to be sure it’s really driving – but it wasn’t long before I started to trust it.

What do we do behind the wheel, if not drive? It’s like being a passenger. For tens of kilometers in a row, the car does not ask you for anything. Freed from the drudgery of driving, you can let your gaze wander across the landscape and your mind contemplate the mundane and the profound. It’s not that you’re completely distracted – even lost in thought, you can maintain situational awareness of the road ahead – but the stress reduction is significant. With Super Cruise, I could drive much further in one day and feel much calmer afterwards, almost like I had done nothing at all.

What all of this amounts to, after a while, is an inflated sense of confidence, a feeling that your car can take you anywhere more or less hassle-free. Super Cruise allowed me to drive further than I otherwise could, with less stress. (And the Escalade’s many screens allow my kids to sit in the car longer than they would have otherwise, with less whining. My 11-year-old son spent much from the trip playing Xbox on the backseat screen.)

A snow storm hit when we were in Los Alamos, NM, and if I had been in another car, I probably would have waited for the snow to pass before leaving town. But the Escalade made me jump: because I suspected that self-driving in the snow wouldn’t be much more troublesome than self-driving in clear weather, I had chosen to continue driving in potentially dangerous conditions.

This is exactly the kind of thinking that urban planners say promotes sprawl. America’s first wave of urban sprawl, which took off after World War II, was fueled in part by falling car prices and the development of the Interstate freeway system. Artificial intelligence researcher Carlos Ignacio Gutierrez argues in a recent article that self-driving cars can produce a similar effect: if driving a one-hour drive yourself is as easy as manually driving a half-hour drive, the owner of a self-driving car may reasonably decide to move to more affordable housing farther from city centers. And moving away – i.e. creating sprawl – intensifies car dependency by making alternative modes of transport like walking or cycling more difficult.

At this point, it’s just a theory, but it’s plausible. Some research has already shown that people who use advanced driver assistance systems drive more than those who don’t.

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