For the 2021 model year, GMC updated the Sierra 1500’s novel multicamera trailer towing technology package, adding more features and functionality to its extraordinary suite of already-useful abilities. For 2022, the Sierra 1500 pickup truck adds the Super Cruise hands-free semi-autonomous driving system with two new features: the ability to use the system while towing a trailer and an automatic lane-changing feature that doesn’t require the driver’s involvement.
We got to sample both systems at GM Proving Grounds in Milford, Mich., driving both the latest ‘21 Sierra with the updated trailer towing system and prototypes of the refreshed ‘22 Sierra with the new Super Cruise system. We didn’t get much of a peek at the new ‘22 Sierra however, as all of the prototypes were wearing camouflage inside and out, but we were able to see how GMC is coming along with the new electronic systems.
New for 2021: More Views, More Functions
Available now on the latest 2021 GMC Sierra pickup, in both light-duty and heavy-duty versions, is an update of the brand’s ProGrade Trailering System that offers 15 different camera views. But the company has updated a few of those features to work a little better and add more functionality to the existing views.
For instance, if an owner has installed the optional auxiliary camera system on their trailer, the rearview camera that shows the area behind the trailer can now also display guidance lines that turn when the operator turns the pickup’s steering wheel. It’s not quite like Ford’s Pro Trailer Backup Assist, which uses a separate little knob to steer the truck and trailer for you, but it has the same effect — turn the wheel to show where the trailer will go without having to guess or learn how to do it. There’s also a new jackknife alert that measures the angle at which you’re turning the trailer, and when it approaches a 75% angle, it’ll warn you via an on-screen alert and the Safety Alert Seat vibration rumble to let you know you’re approaching the danger zone. If you continue to 90%, the alert goes red and gets a bit more strident.
The camera system now also has a zoom function for the bed camera and new bed hitch guidance for operators to more easily hook up a fifth wheel or gooseneck trailer to a bed-mounted hitch ball. The side view camera function also now adjusts as you turn left or right to change the angle of the side view; it features a red-shaded area to indicate the length of your trailer plus a little bit more to aid you in changing lanes and avoiding vehicles in the blind spot.
All of these enhancements are available now at your GMC dealer on the latest ‘21 GMC Sierra.
Coming for 2022: A Refreshed 1500, Now With Semi-Autonomous Driving Tech
The secret’s out: The 2022 GMC Sierra 1500 (and presumably the Chevrolet Silverado 1500) are getting a pretty big makeover that includes front and rear styling and a new interior. But what has GMC most excited is the addition of GM’s hands-free Super Cruise system to the truck, which is the first time the company has put it on one of their pickups. Until now, you could only get the advanced semi-autonomous hands-free driving system on the Cadillac Escalade SUV, CT4, CT5 and CT6 sedans and Chevrolet Bolt EUV electric car, which is just now arriving in dealerships. GMC felt that if it was going to offer the system on a pickup, however, it should be capable of handling pickup-y duties — like towing.
That’s right, the Super Cruise system on the new ‘22 Sierra can be activated while you’re towing a trailer. Specifics like how big of a trailer or how much its maximum weight can be were not yet available, according to a GMC spokesperson. But the idea works just like normal Super Cruise: Set your desired speed and push the Super Cruise button. When the steering wheel LED rim light goes from blue to green, you can remove your hands from the wheel, though you still need to pay attention. The system monitors everything from your alertness level to where you’re pointing your eyeballs to make sure you’re not dozing off, reading a book or surfing the internet on your phone. It automatically detects the trailer based on connections through the Sierra’s onboard ProGrade Trailering System and adjusts itself accordingly.
I have to say, it works remarkably well. As someone who does a decent amount of towing for fun and work, the idea of taking my hands off the steering wheel while dragging a trailer down the interstate at highway speeds strikes me as a massively bad idea, but there was no time where I felt the truck do anything untoward or sketchy that would make me want to grab the wheel; admittedly, it was a brief drive in (very) controlled conditions with no traffic and on an empty high-speed oval track. It just sailed along with the 5,000-pound trailer behind it, demonstrating to me that each successive version of Super Cruise seems to get a little bit better than the one before it.
The company will also be introducing another new feature with this version of Super Cruise: Automatic Lane Change. Now wait, you say, doesn’t the current Cadillac Escalade already feature this? Tap the turn signal while the system is activated, and it changes lanes if the coast is clear, right?
Not exactly: This new system does it without you needing to tell it to. If you come upon slower moving traffic, the truck will scan adjacent lanes, compare the situation with its detailed map data to understand what the road ahead looks like, and then automatically signal and change lanes to overtake the slower traffic before changing back into your original lane once you’ve passed. The system can be turned off in case you don’t want this feature active; you can also trigger it yourself via the aforementioned turn signal method. And just like the trailer towing function, it worked flawlessly in the controlled conditions of the high-speed test track.
The new Super Cruise with trailer tow ability and Automatic Lane Change will be available on the new 2022 Sierra 1500 Denali, and possibly other trims, as well, though GMC was not yet ready to say which beyond the Denali. It will also be available right when the ‘22s launch early next year.
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