Today’s cars don’t look as different as they did 10, 20, or even 30 years ago, but once you look at the drivetrain, seating configuration, or body style, you’ll find that today’s cars share so much in common with a small business computing network they come before them. Compared to cars. Vehicle technology has improved significantly over the past decade, bringing vehicle capabilities to a state of things that were previously only part of the driver’s skill set – staying in the intended lane, braking in an emergency, or following a safe and consistent distance. This next capability – commonly known as adaptive cruise control – is one of the most common and most useful. But what is Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC)?
An early definition of adaptive cruise control
As the name implies, ACC can adapt to this, except for the usual cruise control. What to adjust? Typically, ACC systems use a combination of sensors to measure the distance and speed of the vehicle directly in front of the subject vehicle, using that data to adjust the throttle and / or brake to maintain the desired following distance and speed. When there are no vehicles in front, the ACC will act as a standard cruise control system, accelerate at set speeds and maintain it.
The capabilities of the adaptive cruise control system
ACC systems fall into a spectrum of performance, because the extensive computerization of vehicles allows ACC systems to do much more than follow a vehicle forward at a certain distance.
Some of today’s systems, such as the Mercedes-Benz’s Destronic Plus or Ford’s ACC, with stop and go, can control the trailing distance and speed of the vehicle from stop to highway speed with minimal or no input from the driver. Some systems, such as the standard version of Distronic or Honda’s ACC, will break all the way to the stop, but then deactivate themselves. Other systems avoid the low-speed functionality of the more conventional high-speed adaptive cruise control system intended for highway use.
Basically none of the ACC systems on the market today are standalone systems. Instead, they integrate into safety technology and system suites, often collaborating with features like lane-keeping assistance to provide more driver assistance by steering mostly for you (but you have to keep your hands on the wheels). Ford’s Intelligent ACC, for example, recognizes a kind of low-level autonomous driver assistance system with its ACC stop and go and speed limit sign recognition that enables it to follow a certain distance, stay in a lane and start over. A stop by pressing a button.
Although adaptive cruise control is generally considered a premium feature and is often offered as an option, a growing number of car companies are incorporating it with other driver-aided technologies as standard equipment. Toyota, Honda and Mazda, for example, provide this standard at all trim levels in almost all of their vehicles.
Different names for adaptive cruise control systems
“Adaptive cruise control” is a general term. Although most brands use it, some have their own names for similar systems. Here’s a list of some of the alternative names you’ll see, but rest assured, these are just adaptive cruise controls.
- Acura: AcuraWatch (a suite of systems that includes adaptive cruise control)
- BMW: Active cruise control with stop and go
- Honda: Honda Sensing (a suite of systems with adaptive cruise control)
- Hyundai, Kia and Genesis: Highway Driving Assist
- Infinity: Intelligent cruise control
- Lincoln: Adaptive cruise control with stop and go
- Mazda: Radar cruise control with stop and go
- Mercedes-Benz: Destronic Plus
- Nissan: Propylite Assist and Intelligent Cruise Control (two systems with different capabilities)
- Subaru: Isite (a system suite that includes adaptive cruise control)
- Tesla: Traffic-conscious cruise control with stop and go
- Toyota and Lexus: Dynamic Radar Cruise Control
How is adaptive cruise control different from autopilot, super cruise or bluecruise?
All adaptive systems control the accelerator and brakes, but some go beyond that. Some people can do most of the steering for you on the highway (we call it lane-centering steering assistance), but you have to keep your hands firmly on the wheels. If the driver signals and determines if the car is safe to drive, some may change the lanes automatically and go even further.
Tesla Autopilot, GM’s Super Cruise and Ford’s Blue Cruise take an important step by allowing you to drive without hands on wheels. Effectively, they are hands-free driving. There are important differences though. GM and Ford systems are geofenced only to operate on certain stretches of highway, where Tesla systems operate more freely (for better or for worse). Tesla doesn’t monitor drivers like Super Cruise and Blue Cruise. The Lincoln version of BlueCruise, known as ActiveGlide, is shown in the figure below.
None of these systems are close to what autonomous driving would consider.
A (very) brief history of adaptive cruise control
Japanese carmakers, including Mitsubishi, Nissan, and Toyota, were pioneers of adaptive cruise control in the 1990’s, although Mercedes-Benz, Jaguar, BMW, Audi, Lancia, Renault, Volkswagen, Subaru, and Cadillac also played early ACC games. 1990s and early 2000s.
The first ACC system to reach the US market was the 2001 Lexus LS 430. The “Dynamic Laser Cruise Control System” uses a laser-based sensor to estimate traffic distances.
Sensor type for adaptive cruise control
Since the first days of adaptive cruise control, there has been a lot of speculation as to which sensors are best for using the sensors to detect traffic and the speed of nearby vehicles. The earliest systems used laser or radar, and these two types of sensors remain in use today, with today’s greater computing power and high-resolution digital camera sensors making camera-based ACC possible.
Laser-based systems, although they may sound super high-tech, are susceptible to a number of problems, including false readings, especially in inclement weather or when (invisible) laser beam paths are obstructed by other debris or foreign objects, including the road in the target vehicle. Dirt and filth.
Radar-based systems operate in much the same way as laser-based systems, but radar can penetrate more easily through bad weather and other obstacles.
Camera-based systems use completely different operational methods, using computers to try to identify objects and features from their visual representation, rather than using a beam of directed energy, such as laser or radar, during flight. This can make systems stronger against problems like adverse weather, but can also cause new problems, such as distinguishing between real objects and objects or their shadows. The Subaru iSight Security Suite, which includes ACC, is a dual camera-based system.
Today, most ACC systems use a combination of laser, radar or camera sensors to help overcome the shortcomings of each individual.