What is Cruise Control?
Cruise Control is a highly advanced system that enables vehicles 🚜 to move automatically on the road without a hundred percent intervention of a driver (just like the auto-pilot in airplanes ✈️).
Vehicles with Cruise Control technology are fixed with radar sensors that study the road ahead and automatically maintain a distance from the vehicle or obstacle directly ahead by automatically handling braking and acceleration.
When was cruise control invented?
Cruise control, originally referred to as Auto-pilot, was first installed on a production automobile in 1958. It was originally installed in Chrysler vehicles, including the Imperial and Windsor models as an option.
Modern functional Cruise Control for automobiles was in fact invented earlier than 1948 by Ralph Teetor, who was blind. He came up with the idea after noticing that his friend would slow down when talking to him and speed up when he stopped talking.
Engine speed controls for automobiles like tractors and locomotives were in fact around even far much earlier, dating back early 1900’s. Many of these used an adjustable centrifugal speed governor to control engine speed, but these were not used in relation to ground speed, as is the case with Cruise Control.
Cruise control is of two main types:
Regular cruise control:
This only holds a set speed. You can change it, and the car will change the throttle input to go up or down to that speed.
Some automobiles will even shift down when they sense that the car needs engine braking especially when going downhill(Hyundai Sonata 2015 and above is a good example).
Here, It’s the responsibility of the driver to ensure that the car doesn’t hit the car in front, since the system doesn’t realize how close the car is. This system has been in cars for years and is almost universal.
Adaptive cruise control:
This is a newer and highly advanced system that is becoming more popular in mid range and high end automatic cars. It’s also sometimes referred to as Radar Guided Cruise Control, although there are cars these days that use only cameras for this that use dual stereoscopic, forward looking cameras for all forward driver assist systems, including Adaptive Cruise Control, dubbed the EyeSight system as in Subaru.
Radar sensors are mounted behind the front upper or lower grilles, that use highly advanced technologies such as multiple-beam radar. Using these radars, the Adaptive Cruise Control maintains speed and set distance behind the car ahead.
The driver customizes the system by adjusting preferred distance based on preference from the distance settings.
The radar sensors automatically maintain a distance from the vehicle directly ahead by automatically handling braking and acceleration. It even brings the car to a complete stop if the car in front stops and then prompts movement if the car in front moves as it happens on traffic. All cruise control systems disengage once you hit the brakes or the clutch (in a manual car)
How does a cruise control work?
On a modern car, it is handled by the engine control module and the CAN Network. The driver hits the set speed button. The switch is connected to a module (the body control module). The body control module sends a message on the network to hold a specific speed and the engine control module gets the message and responds accordingly.
Now the Engine Control Module (ECM) gets a road speed input from the ABS module and knows exactly what the engine speed is and the ECM controls the electronic throttle module (ETM).
So the message is stick to speed X. If the car slows down, the ECM sees this and orders the throttle to open more and speed up. The car gets above the set speed and the ECM closes the throttle to reduce speed.
How different is Adaptive Cruise Control from regular cruise control in today’s new vehicles?
In Normal cruise control, you set a speed and the car moves at that speed until you turn it off or hit the brakes. You can accelerate the car and it will slow back down to a specified speed and continue going assuming you don’t hit the brakes.
Adaptive Cruise Control, as indicated above, uses sensors to monitor traffic on the road. If you set your Cruise Control to 80 and are coming up behind a car that is doing 50, the adaptive Cruise Control will sense the car’s speed and then adjust the speed of your vehicle to match that of the car in front of you and keep you at a safe distance behind that car.
On the other hand, the old school cruise control would let your car continue at a speed of 80 till you hit the car in front of you (that is if you don’t take control of your car).
What is the real use of cruise control in cars?
Cruise Control is used in cars to maintain constant speed. This enables the driver to take his foot off the pedal and relax a bit especially in long journeys and on highways. Driving can sometimes get so tiresome if one has to keep on stepping on pedals especially in traffic jams.
Other Advantages of Cruise Control include:
Good fuel ⛽ economy since the engine runs at a constant rpm meaning the vehicle returns good fuel economy.
Cruise control sticks to speed limit on the particular highway making driving relaxing and pleasant since you don’t have to keep watching out for speed limits.
The EyeSight in Subaru vehicles and the Adaptive Cruise Control system are quite reliable and safe and make the driving experience enjoyable and relaxing. However, this does not negate your responsibility as a driver. You are still expected to be vigilant and aware of your surroundings and be prepared to take control of your vehicle in case of anything.
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