What is adaptive cruise control and how do I use it?

According to a survey conducted by the University of Iowa Public Policy Center’s Transportation and Vehicle Safety program, 65.2 percent of drivers of cars with adaptive cruise control don’t know what the system does or how to use it. Also known as autonomous cruise control, this is an important feature to understand as it will actually apply the brakes while you are driving. If you are unaware that this could happen, it could lead to an accident—exactly what the technology is designed to prevent.

Adaptive Cruise Control

Currently offered by almost every automaker (but often as a high-end option), this feature has been well received and will likely be offered on more and more models each year.

What It Is

With standard cruise control, you set the speed you want to go and the car maintains that speed, braking or accelerating as needed. With adaptive or autonomous cruise control, you set the speed and a following distance and the car will slow down to maintain the desired distance (short, medium, or long) from the car in front of you. Advanced systems will even work in traffic jams, slowing down or speeding up with the flow of traffic.

How It Works

Depending on a particular automaker’s technology, either a radar sensor or computer-connected camera will scan the road ahead for other vehicles and slow the car down if you begin to come too close.

Tips for Using Adaptive Cruise Control

Adaptive cruise control (ACC) virtually takes care of itself, but your awareness of what it is doing is essential for your safety. Follow these tips to use the system safely:

  • As with regular cruise control, accelerate to your desired speed, then set the ACC, choosing a following distance.
  • ACC may not work properly in bad weather, as snow or rain could hinder the sensor’s ability to locate the car in front of it.
  • ACC may not work in dark tunnels.
  • While ACC allows you to take your focus off maintaining your following distance, you should refocus your attention on road conditions and traffic patterns, not other distractions.
  • Some systems are capable of slowing the car to a complete stop, but others are not. Be sure to understand what your system can do.

Potential Problems

Despite the survey results indicating that this is the least-understood of new safety features, reviews have been very positive. It is essential that you read your owner’s manual to learn what your car’s exact system does and does not do, but it has proven highly effective in crash prevention.

When to Get Help

To learn more about additional car safety features, visit the My Car Does What? website. Whether you have used your car’s safety features correctly or not, if you have been injured in a car accident that wasn’t your fault, you could be entitled to compensation. Call Steve Lee at 800-232-3711 to get help.

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