Adaptive Cruise Control

Adaptive Cruise Control: What is it and How Does it Work

You’re likely familiar with cruise control systems, but have you ever heard of adaptive cruise control? This is another automated safety feature that makes driving easier and safer. It’s an interesting feature for anyone using cruise control regularly and those enjoying long road trips. In this article, we will outline the main differences between a regular and an adaptive cruise control system, how it works and why you need one.

What is Adaptive Cruise Control?

adaptive cruise control features

Before you can understand what adaptive cruise control is, you need to know what a regular cruise control system is. Standard cruise control systems are now present in most vehicles nowadays and are used to maintain a steady speed while you drive on the highway.

Since holding the gas pedal steadily for a long time might become tiresome, cruise control systems are there to simplify your life. This feature is used to keep your car at the same speed without the use of the gas pedal. Instead, you’ll use paddles or buttons near your steering wheel to accelerate or slow down and set the desired speed. Most cruise control systems maintain the speed of the vehicle by controlling the opening of the throttle. Opening the throttle and increasing the airflow results in more speed, while limiting it will reduce it.

This feature is most beneficial when you’re driving on the highway for a long time. This will allow you to rest your foot while still keeping pace. It’s also extremely easy to turn the cruise control off by stepping on the brake if there’s something ahead. 

Now that you know what a standard cruise control system is, it’s easier to understand what an adaptive cruise control is. Unlike standard systems where you need to reduce the speed if there a car in front of you, adaptative cruise control systems automate this process. Instead of manually accelerating or decelerating by pressing a button, the system will handle it for you.

The main difference between both systems is quite simple. The adaptive system is automatic and the regular system is manual. It’s like the difference between using an automatic can opener and a manual hand-crank version. An automatic opener (an adaptive system) is much convenient and user-friendly compared to its manual (cruise control) counterpart. 

How Does Adaptive Cruise Control Work?

An adaptive cruise control system uses a radar system and multiple sensors to determine the distance between you and the car in front. When activating the system, you need to select a safe distance to maintain. If the car in front of you speeds up, your car will also speed up and, more importantly, will automatically slow down when the car in front of you uses their brakes.

Does adaptive cruise control use the brakes?

Yes! An adaptive cruise control system would be fairly useless if it didn’t apply the brakes for you. Maintaining a steady speed is one thing, but avoiding an accident is much more important. This is what makes an adaptive system so easy and convenient to use. If you still needed to apply the brakes, the system wouldn’t be very useful. Thankfully, adaptive cruise control does use your brakes.

What are the Different Types of Adaptive Cruise Control?

There are two main types of adaptive cruise control systems: those using lasers and others using radars. Both systems serve the exact same function, although how they evaluate distance is slightly different.

One of the main distinctions between any type of adaptive system is that some include the ability to stop and go. Adaptive cruise control with stop and go means that your car will automatically slow down, even to a complete stop. Furthermore, it will also automatically re-accelerate to resume the set speed and following distance from the car in front of you.

An adaptive system that doesn’t have this feature will only accelerate from current speed or slow down. This means that once you come to a stop, the cruise control feature will turn off and you’ll need to manually accelerate to get back to speed. Both systems are useful, but an adaptive system with stop and go is much more effective for people that drive in stop and go traffic. 

In-car view adaptive cruise control

Which Cars Have Adaptive Cruise Control?

As useful as this technology is, not many cars actually come equipped with this feature. The main reason being that adaptive systems are a relatively new technology for many manufacturers. It was invented in the early 90s but was so expensive at the time that only luxury cars were equipped with them. 

In recent years, however, this technology has become more affordable and now comes standard in many modern cars. In fact, the emergence of autonomous driving features and advanced safety features now justifies adding lasers and radars on cars. For example, if manufacturers want to offer features like automatic emergency braking system, forward collision warning, or blind-spot detection, they have no other choice but to install sensors evaluating the distance between your car and other elements around it. 

Here a list of a few manufacturers that install adaptive technology on their vehicle:

  • BMW
  • Volvo
  • Mercedes
  • Audi
  • Lexus
  • Hyundai
  • Nissan
  • Toyota
  • Honda

Can You Install an Adaptive Cruise Control System on Your Vehicle?

Adaptative cruise control switch

While your car may not come standard with this feature, that doesn’t mean you’re entirely out of luck. There are aftermarket adaptive cruise control kits that you can install in your car.

With this in mind, you can install it in your car. Kits can be fairly expensive, though. It’s not rare to see kits with price tags up to $2000 or more. Luckily, some more affordable systems range closer to $1000 are also available. On the cheaper end, you aren’t likely to have stop and go capabilities but it will still automate braking and acceleration functions for you. For full automation, however, you’ll need to spend a lot more bucks than that.

Are Adaptive Cruise Control Systems Effective?

Cars using adaptative cruise control in traffic

If you’re looking for a way to determine if such a system is worth the investment, look for an adaptive cruise control review for the specific car you’re looking at buying. As with most other car features, they’re not all created equals. 

As a whole, this technology is extremely effective when used properly. It’s a great safety feature and can help you avoid a collision with another vehicle. Nevertheless, it’s important to mention that, no matter how useful this feature can be, don’t ever rely on it to keep you safe and make sure to always pay attention to what’s in front of you.

Closing Thoughts

Adaptive cruise control systems are incredibly effective and are an automated way to approach cruise control. Rather than pushing a button, an adaptive system simplifies the process of accelerating and braking by maintaining a constant distance between you and the car in front of you. This feature is typically found in luxury cars or modern vehicles, but you can also install it as an aftermarket kit. An adaptive system is a great way to prevent accidents and you should definitely purchase a car with one or install it if you’re currently considering it!



About Ren R

Ren R
Loves cars and helping others learn how to take care of their own vehicle. Drives a Honda Accord and enjoys every second of it!

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