New Cadillac Escalade ups tech ante
Earlier this week in Los Angeles, Cadillac unveiled the long-awaited new Escalade in a battle with Lincoln and its Navigator to regain some lost status in the iconic U.S. luxury SUV competition. Launching in the third quarter of this year in North America, the 2021 Escalade has been completely redesigned for improved driving dynamics and significantly greater passenger and cargo capacities. It brings some significant tech to the battle, namely the latest iteration of the Super Cruise driver assistance technology, first-to-market curved OLED (organic light emitting diode) cluster and infotainment display screens, and the first AKG (a Harman brand) automotive audio system.
The updated Super Cruise, coming to the Escalade just after the 2021 Cadillac CT5 and CT4 sedans, enables hands-free driving on more than 200,000 mi (322,000 km) of compatible highways in the U.S. and Canada. The system uses Ushr LiDAR map data, high-precision GPS, a driver-attention system, and a network of camera and radar sensors.
New features and improvements include automated lane changing, which allows the driver to direct the system to perform a single lane change using the turn signal to indicate the desired direction. Dynamic lane offset can adjust the vehicle slightly over in its lane for driver comfort when other vehicles are too close in proximity. New messaging in the information center alerts drivers when Super Cruise may not be available in certain instances. The enhancements were made possible by General Motors’ all-new digital vehicle platform, which provides more electrical bandwidth and data processing power.
“This is our most extensive update we’ve made to Super Cruise since its debut,” said Mario Maiorana, Super Cruise Chief Engineer. “In addition to the automated lane-change functionality, we’ve made improvements to the user interface and hands-free driving dynamics.”
Upon initiation, the gauge cluster displays when the automated lane change has begun or if auto lane change is unavailable, with messages such as “looking for an opening” or “changing lanes” to keep the driver informed.
“We made improvements to both our software and hardware,” said Maiorana. “This included improving rear-facing sensors and advanced software algorithms so that the system can confidently track vehicles approaching from the rear. As a result of these improvements, we are able to ensure that Super Cruise will hold in its current lane and only change when a sufficient gap exists.”
Those improvements include the addition of richer map information to enable automated lane changing and improved functionality through turns and highway interchanges, improved software for better steering and speed control, and enhancements to make it easier and more intuitive for drivers to engage the system.
Other driver-assist highlights are Surround Vision, a standard feature that employs four exterior cameras to provide a two-megapixel bird’s-eye view of the scene around the vehicle. Destination suggestions can be sent by rear passengers to the front navigation screen, for the driver to accept or decline.
The industry-first curved display, using P-OLED technology from LG Electronics, was heavily influenced by the OLED from the 2016 Cadillac Escala concept vehicle. The production Escalade’s version offers more than 38 in of total diagonal display area. Cadillac says that the technology offers twice the pixel density of a 4K television to deliver bold imagery, perfect blacks, and the largest color range of any automotive display in production today.
The system includes three screens: a 7.2-in touch control panel driver information center to the driver’s left, a 14.2-in cluster display in front of the steering wheel, and a 16.9-in infotainment screen to the driver’s right. The OLED is “paper-thin,” the vivid color and visual quality of OLED technology eliminating the need for screen shrouding.
The display system has optional augmented reality-enabled navigation and night vision—all powered by LG-developed software that is ASIL (Automotive Safety Integrity Level) compliant. The AR-enabled navigation uses a live street view showing in front of the vehicle that is projected on the cluster display with turn indicators and other directional information overlaid on the scene. It includes direction-based audio prompts; for example, a “turn left” audio prompt comes through the left speakers to further emphasize the navigation instruction, with the volume increasing as the turn approaches. The night vision uses infrared technology to enhance forward visibility, including detection of pedestrians and large animals, and is projected on the center cluster display.
LG Electronics hopes the halo of the cutting-edge offering—with claimed wide-viewing angle, bold graphics, high degree of flexibility, and unmatched thinness—will enable it to take a bigger percentage of the global automotive display market, which is expected to grow from $7.8 billion last year to $10.5 billion by 2023, according to IHS Markit.
“Debuting this technology with a storied brand such as Cadillac is not only an honor, it confirms that our automotive solutions are among the best the industry has to offer,” said Jin-yong Kim, President of the LG Vehicle Component Solutions Co. “Now, the years of knowledge and experience LG has accumulated in becoming the global leader in OLED TVs is being applied to improving the in-car experience.”
Another big infotainment highlight of the new Escalade is the inclusion of industry-first audio technology. AKG—the company founded in Vienna in 1947 by physicist Dr. Rudolf Goerike and engineer Ernst Pless, and known worldwide for microphones and headphones used by leading musicians in recording studios and live venues—has brought its audio technology to the auto industry for the first time, exclusively for Cadillac. The result is the available AKG Studio Reference system, 36 speakers powered by three amplifiers that deliver 28 channels, promising a crisp and immersive listening experience. (It is a bump up from a standard AKG Studio system that includes 19 speakers and a large enclosed subwoofer, powered by a 14-channel amplifier.)
Among the advanced audio-system features is Studio 3D Surround, which creates professional-level sound through the multichannel audio system, with strategically placed speakers finely tuned to deliver sound “like being with the artist in the recording studio.” Additional speakers in the headliner help create a 360-degree immersive listening experience. Conversation among front and rear passengers is enhanced by capturing their voices via embedded microphones and reproducing them in the designated zone. The system also provides the audio rendering for the turn-by-turn navigation instructions and dedicated volume control for each front seat.
The 2021 Escalade is manufactured at GM’s Arlington, TX, assembly facility, which has received more than $1.4 billion in investments since 2015. The plant was recently upgraded with a new paint shop, body shop, and additional assembly quality improvements to support the production of the Escalade and its GM SUV platform siblings, the Chevrolet Tahoe/Suburban and GMC Yukon.