What is adaptive cruise control? How ACC work & Types of ACC

What is adaptive cruise control? Today’s coolest luxury car technologies often become features on mainstream cars tomorrow. Take cruise control as an example; today, nearly every new car has it except for specialized performance models and base trims of entry-level cars. But what is adaptive cruise control? And is it worth using?

What is Adaptive Cruise Control?

Adaptive cruise control (ACC) is a system designed to help vehicles maintain a safe following distance and stay within the speed limit. This system adjusts a car’s speed automatically so drivers don’t have to.

What is adaptive cruise control

Adaptive cruise control is one of 20 terms used to describe its functions so that you might see adaptive cruise control as the following in advertisements and vehicle descriptions:

  • Active cruise control
  • Dynamic cruise control
  • Radar cruise control
  • Automatic cruise control
  • Intelligent cruise control

ACC functions by sensory technology installed within vehicles such as cameras, lasers, and radar equipment, which creates an idea of how close one car is to another, or other objects on the roadway. For this reason, ACC is the basis for future car intelligence.

These sensory technologies allow the car to detect and warn the driver about potential forward collisions. When this happens, red lights begin to flash, and the phrase ‘brake now!’ appears on the dashboard to help the driver slow down. There might also be an audible warning.

How Adaptive Cruise Control Works?

Like conventional cruise control, adaptive cruise control maintains a desired speed set by the driver. However, adaptive cruise control (often abbreviated as ACC) makes things more convenient by automatically adjusting that speed relative to the speed of the vehicle ahead of you.

If a slower vehicle moves in front of you, the system will automatically slow to maintain a pre-set following distance and then accelerate again to your originally set speed once the vehicle moves out of the way. Most adaptive cruise control systems allow the driver to adjust the following distance at intervals ranging from close to far.

Advanced systems integrate with the vehicle’s navigation system and/or forward looking cameras to even slow around tighter curves and reduce speed if the posted speed limit changes.

Like any safety or convenience system, adaptive cruise control has limitations. As with standard cruise control, the driver is required to steer the vehicle, although many vehicles make this task easier by pairing adaptive cruise with lane keep assist). And adaptive cruise control may not be able to react quickly enough if the car ahead slows suddenly—remain ready to hit the brakes.

Unexpected evasive maneuvers to avoid obstacles in the road are on you, too. Weather and debris can adversely affect adaptive cruise control if it obstructs the cameras and/or radar sensors that let the system operate.

History of Adaptive Cruise Control

U.S. News says Mitsubishi first introduced adaptive cruise control in Japan in 1992. This was a lidar-based distance detection system that detected objects that were getting too close.

It was labeled as ‘Debonair’ and it was programmed to provide a warning to the driver about oncoming objects. The main difference was that it was the driver’s job to apply the brakes and reduce their speed.

What is adaptive cruise control

However, two years later in 1995, the Mitsubishi Diamante featured an upgraded approach to the Debonair called ‘Preview Distance Control.’ Unlike the original technology, this laser-powered system could adjust a driver’s speed by downshifting or controlling the throttle. The driver was still responsible for applying the brakes.

From the early 2000s onward, big names in the car industry, such as Ford, BMW, Mercedes, Cadillac, Volkswagen, Infinity, Hyundai, Toyota, and Audi, created their versions of adaptive cruise control in their vehicles. These individual features have evolved into a high-tech system with automatic braking and speed control.

Advantages of Adaptive Cruise Control

Some key advantages of adaptive cruise control mentioned by MyCarDoesWhat.org include an increase in road safety, as cars with this technology will keep the adequate spacing between them and other vehicles. These space-mindful features will also help prevent accidents that result from an obstructed view or close following distance.

Similarly, ACC will help maximize traffic flow because of its spatial awareness. As a driver, you don’t have to worry about your speed, and instead, you can focus on what is going on around you.

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Limitations of Adaptive Cruise Control

Although there are many advantages to adaptive cruise control, there are still limitations to consider. One of the main faults in this system is the fact that it is not entirely autonomous. The driver of the vehicle still needs to practice safe driving habits that will work in tandem with this technology to produce the best results.

Similarly, adverse weather conditions like snow, rain, or fog might confuse the system’s sensors, as well as environmental factors such as driving through tunnels.

Types of Adaptive Cruise Control

Radar-Based Systems

According to eInfoChips, radar-based systems work by placing radar-based sensors on or around plastic fascias to detect your vehicle’s surroundings. Each radar sensor works together to create a comprehensive picture of the vehicle’s proximity to other cars or potentially hazardous objects. This type of sensor can look different depending on the design and model of the car.

Laser-Based Systems

As mentioned by Electronic Design, this type of ACC system operates out of a large black box typically placed in the grille of your vehicle. It uses laser technology to detect the proximity of objects to your car. It does not operate well during rainstorms and other weather conditions.

Binocular Computer Vision Systems (Optical)

According to ExtremeTech, this is a relatively new ACC system put into use in 2013. It uses small cameras that are placed on the back of a vehicle’s rearview mirror to detect front-facing objects.

Assisting Systems

Assisting systems are radar-based add-ons that customers can buy together. These pre-crash systems can offer lane control, brake assistance, cruise control, proximity alerts to objects like corners, and steering power.

Multi-Sensor Systems

According to Fierce Electronics, adaptive cruise control systems sometimes integrate more than one type of sensor to aid in a vehicle’s operation. Multi-sensor systems incorporate several different sensor types to provide a driver with advanced information.

These sensors might include GPS data equipment or cameras to gather information about a vehicle’s geographic environment and proximity to other cars.

Predictive Systems

As mentioned by Autoblog, prediction systems are a type of ACC that uses sensory data to predict the actions of neighboring vehicles. This means that your car might slow down to brace for another vehicle suddenly switching lanes and, in doing so, promotes passenger safety.

How Can Adaptive Cruise Control Make My Commute Easier?

The most basic adaptive cruise control systems relieve the stress of operating the accelerator pedal in many cruising conditions. Newer, better systems offer stop-and-go functionality, sometimes called traffic jam assist.

What is adaptive cruise control

This allows the vehicle to comfortably continue using adaptive cruise control at low speeds, thanks to the system’s ability to come to a complete stop when traffic ahead does.

Many systems will deactivate a few seconds after stopping, requiring you to manually resume by pressing a button or the accelerator. The newest, best systems bundle other driver assistance technologies including lane keeping assist, forward collision warning, pedestrian detection, and automatic emergency braking to provide the highest level of commuter stress relief.

These state of the art adaptive cruise control systems form the building blocks for semi-autonomous driving. When a lane centering system joins the mix, the vehicle can keep itself in a single lane and negotiate gentle turns, further reducing the workload of your commute or road trip.

Some automakers have also added a lane change assist function. With these, when you apply the turn signal, sensors check for traffic in the next lane, and if safe, they steer the car over and center in the next lane.

Is Adaptive Cruise Control Self-Driving?

No. Although adaptive cruise control does much to alleviate the driver’s work behind the wheel, it does not make a car self-driving. The driver must remain alert and in control for any of the unexpected conditions that could arise on the road.

On the SAE’s Levels of Driving Automation scale, adaptive cruise control rates at Level 1, and rises to Level 2 when coupled with lane centering—either way, nowhere close to the Level 5 which defines a self-driving car.

However, some of the newest systems are approaching Level 3, in which the driver can remove their hands from the steering wheel. The driver must remain ready to resume control at all times, but Level 3 systems will accelerate, brake, and steer the vehicle under specific conditions.

Ford’s BlueCruise and General Motors’ Super Cruise are two of those systems from American manufacturers. Both rely on myriad sensors and extensive software mapping of real-world roads to operate. As such, they only work on certain roads and in certain situations. Jeep has its own version in the works, too.

Tesla Autopilot is probably the most well-known semi-autonomous driving system. In a recent review comparing Super Cruise to Autopilot, we concluded that Super Cruise performs as well and in some cases better than Tesla’s technology.

From overseas manufacturers, Lexus is developing its Teammate system, and Mercedes-Benz is making progress on Drive Pilot. Both offer impressive levels of assistance, but at the same time illustrate how more work remains to be done until we’re in the era of self-driving cars.

Is Adaptive Cruise Control Worth It?

If you can learn to trust the tech (while always paying attention and being ready to immediately take over if necessary), adaptive cruise control could be a very meaningful upgrade. Letting the car operate the accelerator and brakes for most of your drive home from work can relieve a lot of the stress associated with driving.

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What is adaptive cruise control

But, if a system is designed with driving logic that bites the brakes too hard as it comes to a stop or allows too much distance in its closest setting, you might find yourself using the tech once and never again for the rest of the time you own the car.

However, given that adaptive cruise control is becoming standard equipment on more and more vehicles, it’s less of a consideration whether it’s worth paying for—rather, the choice becomes whether or not you want to use it. We think you will.

What Is the Difference Between Adaptive Cruise Control and Self-Driving?

There continues to be plenty of confusion about self-driving or autonomous systems, what they are, and how they operate. We’ll get to that next. However, the major difference between adaptive cruise control and a self-driving system is, ACC is simply a component of a driverless system.

That is to say, ACC provides automatic braking and acceleration in a self-driving system that also includes steering, and sometimes automatic lane changing.

What Is The Difference Between Normal Cruise Control And Adaptive Cruise Control?

The origins of normal cruise control go back to 1948, when Ralph Teetor invented the speedostat. Having greatly improved since, its focus on throttle control is still central to automation today.

One example is automatically pressing the acceleration pedal, which enables drivers to take their foot off the pedal for a few moments when they are on a motorway with low traffic. The need to remain vigilant remains, so they can brake whenever required.

In the late 1990s, several carmakers started introducing a new generation of cruise control: adaptive cruise control. This technology relies on front radar to address the biggest limitation traditional cruise control had: the ability to correctly appreciate the speed of the vehicle in front.

This improvement significantly expanded the continuous operation time of the cruise control function, as automation allowed to control both the acceleration and braking of a vehicle.

This allowed the driver to travel for longer distances with their feet off the pedal, even in moderate traffic situations on the motorway. Of course, the need for them to pay attention to the road ahead remained, as cars in front could still brake or suddenly cut in.

As drivers are getting more and more comfortable with using ACC while driving, the expectation for an even longer duration of continuous operation time for the system is rising. In turn, this puts pressure for it to be further improved. As new enhancements are made, the market is shifting to a new standard in ACC, called intelligent cruise control.

What Is the Difference Between a Level 1 Autonomous Car and a Level 2 Autonomous Car?

According to SAE International, when a car only has autonomous cruise control, it is considered to be a level 1 autonomous car. In contrast, a vehicle with autonomous cruise control and an additional feature, such as lane control, gets classified as a level 2 autonomous car.

What Is the Difference Between Level 2 and Level 3 Autonomous Driving?

Level 2 – To qualify as Level 2, a vehicle must have at least two driver-assistance technologies. This typically includes ACC and another technology like lane-centering assist or lane-keeping assist.

With these technologies, the vehicle can steer, accelerate, and brake on its own in certain conditions. Level 2 still requires the driver’s hands on the wheel and eyes on the road. It is the current state of automation.

Level 3 – If Level 2 is partial self-driving, Level 3 is conditional full automation. A Level 3 self-driving system uses a wide spectrum of driver-assistance features and artificial intelligence (AI). These technologies collude to react to and make decisions about the vehicles’ ever-changing situations.

What is adaptive cruise control

In a Level 3 vehicle, the driver can completely surrender control of the vehicle’s operation on specific roads. The driver must be prepared to resume control in case of an emergency but otherwise doesn’t have command of the car. That is, the driver’s hands can be off the steering wheel and their attention elsewhere.

Although the state of autonomous driving today is Level 2, a few carmakers are on the precipice of Level 3. For example, Tesla’s Enhanced Autopilot, Ford’s BlueCruise, the Mercedes Drive Pilot, and General Motors’ Super Cruise bring the potential for Level 3. A few over-the-air software tweaks will turn the potential into reality.

However, like a stood-up date who is all dressed up with nowhere to go, you will not find Level 3-designated highways as of yet.

What To Look For In A Vehicle With Adaptive Cruise Control

  • See if adaptive cruise control has a stop and go function (also known as traffic jam assist). This feature means the it can still function when highway traffic slows to a crawl.
  • Pay attention to how smoothly the car accelerates and brakes on its own when a car moves in front of or out of your lane. Some systems, such as those on Audis and Subarus, allow you to adjust the tech’s aggressiveness.
  • Assess the distance the car leaves in its closest adaptive cruise control setting at highway and lower speeds. Does it strike a balance between a comfortable distance and not being so far back that cars are constantly cutting in front of you?
  • Can you toggle between standard or adaptive cruise control? There are some driving conditions where an adaptive system’s frequent braking and resuming can be less comfortable than normal cruise control, and having a non-adaptive option allows continued cruise functionality should the sensors become temporarily obscured.
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What Use Cases Are Supported By Modern Adaptive Cruise Control?

The latest intelligent cruise control systems aim to tackle the entire journey, offloading the driver’s tasks whenever possible. Here are some of the most interesting use cases:

Stop & Go cruise control

Traffic congestion is a real problem across the world. Major cities worldwide are faced with the challenge of optimizing their traffic networks. Even driving bumper to bumper at low speeds can result not only in discomfort for drivers, but also accidents. This is where Stop & Go cruise control can play a role.

Operating similarly to adaptive cruise control on motorways, the difference is in slow-moving traffic, when it automatically stops or starts vehicle movement under driver supervision. The car will brake and accelerate on its own, while maintaining a safe distance from the vehicle in front.

Speed limit-aware cruise control

One of the situations requiring ACC adjustment by the driver is when passing a speed limit sign. However, intelligent cruise control can automatically adjust the set speed to the newly detected speed limit, thanks to input from the traffic sign recognition system. This is done by fusing camera observation and map data to provide reliable speed restriction information.

Eco cruise control for fuel and EV capacity savings

When in eco mode, cruise control adjusts the set speed so that the minimum amount of energy – whether electricity or fuel – is consumed during the journey. In a situation where a vehicle would go uphill, the system could drop the speed of the vehicle with 15-20%, in appreciation of the expected downhill speed gain shortly after.

To be able to make such judgment, ACC relies on ADAS map data, specifically gradient information. Being able to rely on slope data means that the TomTom ADAS Map has been proven to provide between 5-10% fuel savings.

Cruise control in curves

Especially on country roads and junctions, but also on motorways, the driver usually needs to correct the speed set by adaptive cruise control when facing bends and turns.

Using curvature data from the ADAS Map, intelligent cruise control can eliminate human intervention by calculating the safe and comfortable speed for a given road segment. It does so by also considering specific vehicle dynamics.

There is also ample opportunity for customization. When in sport mode, the system can cater to drivers with a sporty driving style and shows them the dynamic driving capabilities of the vehicle.

Turn-by-turn cruise control

One of the most recent advancements in intelligent cruise control technology is the capability to automate acceleration and braking at highway exits, entrances, junctions and roundabouts.

What is adaptive cruise control

Even when a driver corrects the vehicle speed by braking, as soon as the pedal is released, the system resumes its activity and sets the speed according to the upcoming road feature it detects. For example, this can be a drivable profile through a roundabout.

Map data is critical to this operation, as the system relies on insights based on traffic signs – stop, yield, traffic lights – and curvature at junction information.

Predictive adaptive cruise control to anticipate road hazards ahead

When there is a road accident, a broken vehicle on the road or severe weather conditions such as icy roads, special caution when driving is required. Intelligent cruise control systems rely on the vehicle’s connectivity to obtain early warnings and adjust speed accordingly. The result is a safer and more comfortable journey for the driver and passengers.

Parking speed control

The first and the last stage of a car journey with adaptive cruise control is always the same: controlling the speed when maneuvering in a parking or a driveway. To assist the driver in such a scenario, it is imperative to use additional sensing and very low speed.

Currently, many ACC systems under development target not only self-parking, but also maneuvering through large parking lots.

Dynamic priority cruise control: an emerging technology

The next step for modern adaptive cruise control systems is the ability to perceive and automatically handle changing traffic lights and other vehicles at junctions.

Intelligent driving strategies that support this use case include priority negotiation and sensing a rapidly changing situation with high confidence. Of course, the driver can still observe the vehicle’s choices and intervene at any given moment.

How Much Does an Adaptive Cruise Control System Cost?

According to ExtremeTech, The cost of an adaptive cruise control system will vary depending on how many features you want. If you’re going to have an ACC with all available features, you should be willing to pay anywhere between $2000 and $2500.

If you are looking for minimal cruise control that would benefit speeds of up to 20-25 miles per hour, these more basic ACCs can cost as low as $500. The good news is that as ACC becomes more common, it will most likely reduce in price.

Can I Add Adaptive Cruise Control to My Car?

Yes, you will find aftermarket adaptive cruise control kits available. Depending on the features, they range in cost from $250 to nearly $4,000. That’s just the cost of the kits. The installation will add even more.

For most involved electric-system installations, it’s best to get them done by a dealership or certified mechanic. We believe that’s the case with an ACC system. Installation cost depends on the sophistication of the system and the vehicle model.


What are the disadvantages of adaptive cruise control?

Even adaptive cruise control may struggle to perform safely and efficiently at night or during bad weather. When any type of cruise control is activated, your vehicle may not properly adapt to increased braking distances during rainstorms or winter weather.

Does adaptive cruise control use brakes?

Adaptive cruise control (ACC) is like traditional cruise control, but smarter. ACC systems allow you to set a desired speed until your vehicle encounters slower-moving traffic. Then it will brake to maintain a set distance from the car ahead.

Does adaptive cruise control save gas?

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.

Above is information about What is adaptive cruise control? that we have compiled. Hopefully, through the above content, you have a more detailed understanding of How adaptive cruise control works? Thank you for reading our post.

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