What does cruise control do? Cruise control lets you set a speed for your car to maintain even if you take your foot off the gas. On long trips, it can reduce fatigue and make you more comfortable. Cruise control can also prevent speeding and increase fuel efficiency by limiting unnecessary acceleration and braking.
The actual controls to operate cruise control in a car are relatively simple. Buttons activate the system, set your speed, accelerate, and slow down.
What Is Cruise Control?
Cruise control is a feature that comes in handy when you drive at a constant speed. It is an electric system that allows you to set your car to a specific speed, letting you take your foot off the accelerator pedal. So, it can ease foot-fatigue and stress over a long drive.
Another great benefit to using cruise control is that you are going to have greater fuel efficiency. Your vehicle will consume much less fuel if you cruise at a steady speed rather than accelerating at each section of the open road.
When you accelerate sharply, it makes your engine use more energy, and you could be using 60% more fuel than one who uses cruise control. Ultimately, it’s not hard to save on fuel if you let your vehicle automatically maintain a steady cruising speed.
The leading edge of cruise control today is adaptive cruise control. Almost all cars now will be equipped with this smart system. Just as conventional cruise control, adaptive cruise control allows you to set a desired travel speed.
But the difference is that the adaptive cruise control maintains a safe distance between the car in front of you and your car at a consistent pace by using the forward-mounted sensors. For instance, if the car ahead of your vehicle begins to slow, adaptive cruise control will use the engine brake to automatically slow the pace of your vehicle and maintain the selected distance.
Many say adaptive cruise control is a step to autonomous cars in the future. But it is not quite fully autonomous driving, since you have to keep your hands on the wheel and be fully cognizant of the road.
What Does Cruise Control Do?
While driving on an open road for a long time, it would be pretty tiring to keep pressing the accelerator pedal. Cruise control is a feature that helps reduce such fatigue drivers would feel while driving a long distance.
The system imitates the way human drivers drive. But instead of pressing the accelerator pedal, it uses an actuator to control the throttle and helps your car continue cruising at the same speed.
The cruise control system used in older cars is connected to the accelerator through a cable to maintain the gas pedal in a certain position to keep the pre-set speed. Whereas the system in newer cars electronically manages the speed through a program without a cable. Instead, a computer connected with various sensors and throttle controls operates the feature through a wireless system.
This newer technology can automatically adjust the speed based on how fast the vehicle ahead is going while maintaining a safe distance. It dramatically reduces drivers’ fatigue since drivers do not have to press and release the accelerator pedal repeatedly. Drivers will find the system particularly useful on highways or roads with traffic jams during rush hour.
When To Use Cruise Control?
Cruise control is best suited for long drives on large, straight roads with cars traveling at a relatively constant speed. It’s inappropriate in stop-and-go traffic when weather conditions are bad, on narrow, curvy roads, or with frequent speed limit variations.
How to Use Cruise Control
First, evaluate the driving conditions on the interstate. Cruise control is not designed to be used in hazardous weather conditions. Use good judgment when deciding to apply your vehicle’s cruise control. Check for any oncoming obstacles before applying cruise control, particularly if it is your first time to use the system.
Build your speed. If driving on an interstate, the speed limit is generally between 55 and 70 miles per hour. This speed range is ideal for cruise control. Do not attempt to set your vehicle’s cruise control at a speed that is above the legal limit. This is both dangerous and unwise.
Once you reach your desired speed, turn the cruise control system on. In most vehicles, the buttons that control the cruise control system appears on the steering wheel. You should check your owner’s manual and locate these buttons when the car is not being driven to avoid an accident.
After the cruise control system is activated, set the cruise control. This will likely entail simply pressing another button on the steering wheel. After the cruise control is set, you may remove your foot from the accelerator. The car should maintain its speed.
When driving a vehicle that is being accelerated by a cruise control system, it is important to watch the road carefully. Your reaction time will be slower because you will have to deactivate the cruise control system before you slow down or stop.
To accelerate while on cruise control, most models will either have additional buttons or allow the driver to briefly engage the accelerator pedal.
To decelerate, either tap the appropriate button on the cruise control system or quickly apply the brake. As a safety precaution, almost every model of car will deactivate the cruise control as soon as the brake is applied.
How To Set Cruise Control
Check your car’s controls
If it’s your first time using your car’s cruise control system — or if you’re not 100% sure how to turn on cruise control in your car — then the process starts before you crank the engine. Get out the car’s manual and learn what each cruise control button does. Different makes and models may have different combinations of buttons or features.
For example, some cars have a combined button to set the initial speed and accelerate. Others have fine-tuning buttons that you can click to increase or decrease your speed by a set amount, often one mph.
Evaluate the road
Once you’re familiar with your car’s cruise control system, you’re ready to try it out. Wait for a moment when it’s appropriate to use cruise control before turning it on. Check that the road is clear, that weather conditions are good, and that you’re on a road where you won’t have to stop or change speed often. If conditions are right to use cruise control in your car, turn on the system.
Come up to speed
Once the cruise control is active, you’ll need to bring the car manually to the speed you want and then use the “set speed” control. Make sure that your speed is within your area’s established speed limits.
Set distance for ACC systems
If you have adaptive cruise control you will also need to set your distance, so the system knows how much of a gap to leave between you and the car ahead of you. Check your owner’s manual for specifics on how your system works. Some manufacturers include three settings, while others can have up to five. The car will automatically brake and accelerate to keep the correct distance.
Cruise control isn’t autopilot. While knowing how to use cruise control can reduce leg fatigue, it can require more mental concentration. The car will maintain speed even if road conditions change, so you must be especially careful to pay attention to the road and traffic.
Adjust speed as necessary
If you want to speed up or slow down, use the appropriate control. Accelerating with the cruise control system in a car is like using the pedal in terms of acceleration rates and should feel familiar.
Slowing down is akin to taking your foot off the gas and won’t slow the car as fast as applying the brake. When decelerating using the cruise control, give yourself adequate time to change speeds or use the brakes to slow down and hit the “set speed” button again.
Benefits Of Cruise Control
Your cruise control performance is directly dependent on various road conditions, year, and make of the car model. However, no matter how or where you drive, you will always benefit from having this system in the following way:
- It’s easy to use. Most systems have designated buttons for increasing and decreasing the speed. Then there’s also the adaptive version, which helps keep a safe distance.
- Helps improve driver focus. It allows the person behind the wheel to focus on the road instead of maintaining speed while making driving as comfortable as possible.
- Reduces speeding tickets. As the car will be maintaining a constant speed, it’s useful for those who step on the gas pedal too much. There are no guarantees, but it should at least help you on the highways.
Even though it brings comfort to the table, could it help you with fuel efficiency?
Cruise Control And Fuel Efficiency
The answer to the question in the previous paragraph is two-fold. The system is supposed to maintain a constant speed and keep a safe distance from vehicles. It can help in certain scenarios and save money on gas.
Recent studies found that the more you change speed, the less efficient your fuel economy is. For instance, varying speeds between roughly 47 and 53 mph every 18 seconds can increase gas consumption by 20%. However, there’s no set formula, and it’s challenging to count things up.
Moreover, aggressive driving (speeding, rapid acceleration, and braking) wastes a lot of gas. The federal website for fuel economy states that the decrease can be around 15% to 30% at highway speeds.
In all the instances above, cruise control is detrimental to fuel economy. It negates the human factor and brings the speed under control, which could be helpful if you are on a highway. But the system starts to show its downsides if you live in a hilly area.
The cruise control maintains constant speed in any given scenario, so it doesn’t recognize the terrain. As such, if you go up the hill at 60 mph, you will keep the same speed while descending. Combine it with the fact that you shouldn’t maintain constant speed during bad weather, and you get a system that could increase gas consumption and endanger the driver.
Cruise Control vs. Adaptive Cruise Control
Adaptive cruise control is an advanced version of the existing cruise control system. With the conventional system, the vehicle cruises at the speed previously set by the driver without the need to keep pressing the accelerator pedal.
On the other hand, the adaptive cruise control system does the same; however, it can also calculate the speed of the car ahead of you by using the data from radar sensors and automatically adjust the speed of your vehicle to keep a safe following distance between the vehicles.
If the vehicle ahead slows down, the system detects the reduction of speed and operates the controls to decelerate your car. If the car in front of you changes to another lane, the system gives the engine a signal to accelerate and reach the initially set speed.
When should you use cruise control?
Only use your cruise control when the roadways are dry and clean, and never during rainy or icy conditions. Also, never use cruise control in city or congested traffic as the decreased control of your vehicle could contribute to an accident.
Is it better to drive with cruise control?
Generally speaking, yes. Cruise control can help you become more fuel-efficient and can help you save an average of 7-14% on gas thanks to its ability to maintain a continuous speed. In comparison, the constant change in acceleration and deceleration of the driver placing their foot over the pedals can eat more gas.
What happens when you drive with cruise control on?
Cruise control lets you set a speed for your car to maintain even if you take your foot off the gas. On long trips, it can reduce fatigue and make you more comfortable. Cruise control can also prevent speeding and increase fuel efficiency by limiting unnecessary acceleration and braking.
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