Cruise control is one of the most underappreciated but widely used creature comforts in vehicles today, thanks in large part to the greater number of highway miles being driven by Americans. Almost everyone notices when it goes out in a vehicle, even if very few people opt to keep it working once the car ages out past a decade. It takes a lot of strain off a driver’s legs and helps focus attention on the road instead of focusing it on the driving controls, but it doesn’t do everything. If you’ve bought a new car in the last couple of years, you’ve probably also noticed a new cruise control upgrade called adaptive cruise control. It’s one of the coolest new car technologies of the last decade.
Machine Assisted Speed Management
Adaptive cruising differs from your regular cruise control because it doesn’t maintain your vehicle at a predetermined speed consistently. Instead, it maintains your speed as close to your target number as possible, while accelerating and decelerating to maintain a safe distance from other vehicles when they change speed. As a result, it helps slow the vehicle before the driver brakes in situations where traffic is slowing down, providing a little extra assistance in situations where reaction time might be important. It’s not just a safety feature, either. It’s also a great convenience feature because the one hassle about traditional cruise control was the way you would have to start and stop it whenever someone who didn’t fit the flow of traffic butted into a new lane. Adaptive cruise takes care of that for you.
How Does the Car Know to Change Speed?
Sensors feed the car information to help it assess its proximity to other vehicles and their velocity relative to the planet and your car. That way, it can adjust to the flow of traffic easily. These systems are typically paired with other intelligent safety options like collision avoidance, rear view cameras, and parking assistance because they rely on many overlapping hardware control systems, with much of the difference between them being in the computer programming that dictates what the car actually does with that information. There are limits to what adaptive cruise control will adjust to before the human operator needs to intercede, so it’s a good idea to ask for a demonstration before your first drive.
Other Cool Safety Innovations
If you’re wondering about some of those other safety technologies, here’s a quick rundown. They all stem from the development of the AI systems needed for autonomous vehicles, and many of them are offered together in option packages from major car manufacturers.
- Collision avoidance is an autonomous driving function that steers the car out of the way of a collision if the human operator does not intervene and the car is at a qualifying speed
- Braking assistance is similar, but it stops the car
- Parking assist or automatic parking involves giving the driver feedback to make parallel parking easier, but some luxury models can just park for you
- Rear view cameras provide you with more visibility, but they also give your car the information it needs to identify pedestrians and other hazards the other systems help with
- LiDAR technology provides advanced sensor information to the car’s computer
If you want to try out a car with these advanced tech features, it’s easy. All you need to do is rent a new vehicle with all the options for a day.