Chevy Silverado towing a 20-foot trailer hands-free(!) What could go wrong?

Chevy Silverado towing a 20-foot trailer hands-free(!) What could go wrong?

INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Driving without your hands on the steering wheel while driving a heavy-duty pickup weighing over 6,000 pounds on the 105 in Los Angeles seems like a profoundly bad idea. Having it hooked up to a trailer that could weigh at least twice as much seems like … well, whatever is at least twice as worse as “profoundly bad.” Irredeemably stupid?

And yet there I was, hands held in my lap and my right foot resting on the carpet while a Chevy Silverado HD towed a 20-foot box trailer. Was it filled to the brim with concrete? I doubt it, but the Silverado HD’s ability to lug the trailer was not in question this day. It was its ability to do it by itself that was, or at least mostly by itself with a human there merely to look at the road ahead and take over if necessary. Intervention never was necessary, so I can’t say that made me feel particularly useful. I even missed an exit, so it’s a net loss for humans on the scorecard.

As a brief recap, Super Cruise is GM’s name for its advanced driver assistance system that will automatically accelerate, brake, keep its distance to the vehicle ahead, keep itself centered in its lane and even automatically change lanes without (and this is the critical bit) the driver having contact with the steering wheel or pedals. The driver must simply set the speed and following distance, and crucially, maintain eye contact with the road ahead. A special steering wheel with lights glows green when the system is engaged. It only works on controlled accessed roadways that have been mapped by GM, which includes wide-open stretches of snowy nowhere as depicted above (not driving is hard enough, did you expect me to take car-to-car photos, too?) as well as congested city freeways with stop-and-go traffic.

Super Cruise also does in fact work with “all trailer-capable vehicles,” and considering that a good number of so-equipped models are body-on-frame trucks and SUVs, that’s a significant share. Not surprisingly, there are some limitations. Automatic lane changes are a no-go when towing, and if the truck estimates that you’re towing something beyond the gross vehicle weight rating, it’ll prevent Super Cruise from activating.