Adaptive Cruise Control Explained

Adaptive Cruise Control Explained

Vehicles have changed a lot in the last few years and are still changing rapidly. According to General Motors CEO Mary Berra, we’re going to see more changes in vehicles in the next five years than we’ve seen in the last 50. The changes we’ve seen to vehicles and vehicle technology are not going away, and are not going to slow down in their development and implementation any time soon.

One of innovations that has become more common on vehicles in recent years is an adaptive cruise control system. This feature is a standard part of Toyota Safety Sense system, and brands like Ford and General Motors as well as others have adopted it as well. Unlike the previous version of the cruise control system an adaptive cruise control system allows the driver to set the speed they would like to drive while taking into account the speed of vehicles in front of them. This prevents drivers from having to make as many adjustments to vehicles around them, and protects against situations where cruise control drivers might be distracted and not paying attention to what’s happening in front of them.

For example, if you’re cruising at 60 miles an hour and someone in front of you is driving 50 miles an hour, your adaptive cruise control system would see that car in front of you, slow down to match their speed, and resume your 60 miles an hour cruising speed once that vehicle has gotten out of your lane. Vehicles equipped with the system have the option of choosing your following distance from the vehicle in front of you. You can select close, medium, or far distances from the vehicle that you’re driving behind.

Something to keep in mind with these systems is they are not adaptive systems that are in addition to a regular cruise control system. It’s all one system that works together. I spell this out because if a vehicle’s camera cannot see what’s going on in front of you the cruise control will not work at all. This means that in inclement weather like snowstorms, rain storms, or intense fog your cruise control system will be inoperative. (Also if the section of your windshield that includes the camera is dirty the system will not function.) I’ve been asked by customers when manufacturers are going to allow cruise control to work as it used to even if the camera can’t see what’s going on in front of the vehicle. They believe if the weather conditions are bad enough for the adaptive cruise control system to not function then it’s not safe to have cruise control working at all. I would have to say I agree with them.

Using the system the way it was designed frees the driver to enjoy the ride and spend less time making minor adjustments. As I’ve said before in my previous post asking what a specific button does, advances in technology like this are baby steps toward autonomous self driving vehicles, but we’re not there yet. In the meantime I encourage you to use the system safely and with the full attention and alertness the driving should always require.

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