Cadillac launches cars that drive themselves on the highway

2018 Cadillac CT6 black FBN

Cadillacs that can drive themselves on the highway are arriving in dealerships, taking on Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) and its Autopilot system.

A dozen Cadillac CT6 sedans will leave Cadillac’s New York headquarters Monday and head for Los Angeles, embarking on a cross-country drive to show off its semi-autonomous driving technology called “Super Cruise.”  The drive comes as General Motors (NYSE:GM) begins to ship the cars to dealers this week.

Car shoppers will soon find Super Cruise-equipped Cadillacs in showrooms. The feature comes standard on the CT6 Platinum model, which starts at just over $85,000. It’s part of a $5,000 safety package on the Premium Luxury model, which starts at $66,290.

Cadillac calls Super Cruise the first hands-free driver-assist system for freeways. The system was delayed a year as GM worked out the kinks and refined it after a fatal crash last year involving a Tesla Model S in which the driver was using the electric car maker's Autopilot system.

Unlike Tesla's system, Super Cruise will operate only on limited-access freeways. It will keep the car centered in its lane and a safe distance from vehicles in front of it, relying on cameras and radar sensors and high-tech maps to guide the car. Drivers won't have to keep their hands on the steering wheel, but the system will monitor their facial features to make sure they are paying attention to the road and ready to take over driving in an emergency.

GM Super Cruise Cadillac CT6 2 FBN

Drivers who don't pay attention will get several warnings including a flashing light bar on the steering wheel, seat vibrations and audible alerts. If they don't respond, the car emergency flashers will turn on, it will slow to a stop and contact GM’s OnStar safety system.

Although Tesla and other automakers offer similar systems, GM says Super Cruise is the only one that lets drivers take their hands off the wheel.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.