We all know how annoying it can be trying to keep your vehicle’s speed steady and below the speed limit on long trips.
Many vehicles now have cruise control, which aims to keep the speed of a car at a set point by adjusting the accelerator automatically. Typically the system doesn’t apply the brakes on downhill stretches, so it is recommended to be used only on relatively flat, straight roads, although a few models provide braking by changing down the automatic gearbox to a lower gear.
There are two views on the influence of cruise control on crash rates:
- It relieves you of the necessity of controlling your speed and gives you more time to concentrate on other dangers around you, so it is advantageous.
- The lack of attention to speed control leads to boredom and a greater likelihood of mistakes due to fatigue, so it is detrimental.
There is not enough evidence yet to determine which is the more likely. However, fatigue, at least, can be addressed by regular rest breaks.
Active cruise control is an enhancement of cruise control and uses cameras or radar to detect the car you are following and controls the accelerator and brakes to maintain the same speed.
As our roads become increasingly busy and congested this can be a very useful feature. However, on busy multi-lane roads the systems sometimes brake heavily if a car cuts in front of you, which can be annoying. It can be useful in steadily moving traffic but it can’t anticipate congestion conditions as well as a person can, so it won’t react to a traffic slowdown until the car in front does.
Some systems will reduce speed to zero when the car in front stops, then accelerate again when it moves off. Most need to be “prompted” if there is too long a stop, by pressing a button on the steering wheel or touching the accelerator.
It is also called Adaptive Cruise Control or Autonomous Cruise Control. It is not yet widespread in new vehicles and is only available in luxury and top-level variants but, as with all new technology, will become more common with increasing volume and falling cost.
What’s your experience with ACC? Is it a feature you like?
Next time, we’ll take a look at Collision Warning Technologies, plus other safety innovations that are changing the way we drive.