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Guide to Adaptive Cruise Control

How this convenience feature works to reduce your stress on long drives

Illustration of a car safety system

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. Once the traffic starts moving again or if there is no longer a car in the lane ahead, ACC will accelerate to resume the previous set speed. Although ACC systems may take some getting used to, our survey respondents told us they appreciated the stress relief the feature brings.

“I use the feature mostly on the freeway and in stop-and-go traffic. I find it reduces tension and fatigue,” wrote a 2020 Subaru Outback owner. A 2018 Audi Q5 driver agreed. “It is so nice to just set it and let the car worry about the traffic,” they told CR.

The systems use lasers, radar, cameras, or a combination of those. If traffic slows to a stop, most ACC systems will bring the car to a complete stop, then bring it back up to speed when traffic gets going again. Others work only within certain speeds and/or might not start to accelerate automatically.

Adaptive cruise control (ACC): Cruise control that also assists with acceleration and/or braking to maintain a driver-selected gap to the vehicle in front. Some systems can come to a stop and continue while others cannot. If the car comes to a full stop, you may have to press the accelerator or a button on the steering wheel to start moving again.

Not all systems work at low speeds, so drivers who plan to use ACC in slow traffic should check the limitations of any system they plan to buy. These particular systems will often have the words “traffic jam” or “stop and go” in their name.

These features are usually activated using a button on the steering wheel with the image of a car next to a speedometer with an arrow pointing at it. A conventional cruise control system does not automatically keep a set distance away from the car in front, and it is indicated by a similar logo without the car next to the speedometer. A tip to know if your car has adaptive cruise control or regular cruise control is to look for the “gap distance” button, which usually shows a symbol of a car with horizontal distance bars in front. This button will determine how much space your car leaves between its front bumper and the rear of the car it is following.

In our most recent survey, we asked CR members to rate their experiences with the advanced safety and driver assistance systems on their model-year 2017 to 2022 cars. Respondents answered questions about their satisfaction with the systems. The survey covered about 47,000 vehicles. Most respondents told us they were “very satisfied” with ACC. Satisfaction was higher for older drivers.


What to Look For in an Adaptive Cruise Control System

Every ACC system works slightly differently, says Kelly Funkhouser, manager for vehicle technology at CR. Some do a better job than others at recognizing merging traffic and automatically apply the brakes, while others wait too long to slow your car, requiring the driver to take control—especially when a vehicle in front of you cuts you off with a close merge.

“Most ACC systems can only be set to speeds above 20 mph but will slow the vehicle to speeds below that in stop-and-go traffic,” she says. “There are a few systems out there that don’t bring the car all the way to a stop but instead just shut off at low speeds. That can be dangerous when you’re traveling behind another slowing vehicle.” She recommends reading the automaker’s website closely and learning about the speed ranges before using ACC while on your test drive.

ACC is meant for convenience, not as a replacement for an alert driver, Funkhouser says. So don’t use adaptive cruise control as an excuse to get distracted. “Just because the car is controlling your speed doesn’t mean that you can check out,” she says. “These systems do not do well at detecting or slowing for vehicles ahead if you approach them at a high rate of speed. The driver should always be monitoring the surrounding traffic and looking ahead for potential hazards.”

Keith Barry

Keith Barry has been an auto reporter at Consumer Reports since 2018. He focuses on safety, technology, and the environmental impact of cars. Previously, he led home and appliance coverage at Reviewed; reported on cars for USA Today, Wired, and Car & Driver; and wrote for other publications as well. Keith earned a master’s degree in public health from Tufts University. Follow him on Twitter @itskeithbarry .

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Demystifying Adaptive Cruise Control: A Comprehensive Guide

As an auto tech expert and self-driving car enthusiast, I often get asked about Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) and how exactly it works to automatically adjust your car‘s speed. ACC is one of the coolest semi-autonomous technologies available today, making highway drives safer and less stressful. But it‘s also complex under the hood!

In this comprehensive guide, I‘ll give you an in-depth look at ACC – how it works, different types, key benefits, limitations, and what the future holds for adaptive cruise and autonomous driving.

ACC 101 – Adjusting Speed to the Car in Front

ACC uses radar, laser sensors or cameras to monitor the vehicle ahead and adjust your speed accordingly to maintain a preset following distance. If the vehicle in front slows, so does your car – automatically! ACC reduces the constant manual braking and acceleration required in heavy traffic.

Here‘s a quick ACC capability comparison:

ACC delivers a major safety and convenience upgrade from old cruise control technology first introduced in the 1950s. Let‘s look under the hood at how ACC performs this speed adaptation trickery…

ACC Sensor Technology – Radar vs. Laser vs. Camera

ACC systems rely on forward-facing sensors to detect the speed and distance of vehicles ahead. Most ACC systems use radar (radio waves), while some premium vehicles use laser sensors or cameras paired with image processing. Here‘s how each sensor approach works:

Radar Adaptive Cruise Control

  • Uses radio waves in the 24 GHz or 77 GHz frequency bands
  • Excellent range (160m+) and unaffected by weather
  • Distributed beam provides wide field of view
  • Cannot identify shape and classification of objects
  • Overall the most robust and widely adopted ACC technology

Laser Adaptive Cruise Control

  • LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) laser sensors
  • Very high resolution and accuracy
  • Narrow, focused beam with longer range than radar
  • Performance impacted by weather and dirt
  • Limited adoption due to higher cost

Camera-Based Adaptive Cruise Control

  • Uses front-facing camera and video processing
  • Can visually identify vehicles braking ahead
  • Shorter effective range with narrow field of view
  • Limited use for ACC, better for lane centering

Radar ACC is the most common since it combines long range, wide scanning angle, with reasonable cost. However, some automakers like Toyota and BMW use both radar and cameras to complement each other.

Real World ACC Performance

In optimal highway conditions, ACC works exceptionally well to adapt your vehicle‘s speed based on traffic ahead. However, ACC has limitations that require driver supervision:

Following distance – Most systems allow setting 1,2 or 3 second gap to car ahead. Younger drivers tend to prefer the risky 1 second gap!

Cut-ins – When a vehicle changes lane in front, ACC response can be delayed

Curves & hills – Around blind turns or over hills, performance drops as radar line-of-sight is lost

Bad weather – Heavy rain, snow, and fog degrade radar and laser sensor effectiveness

Bright light – Low sun angles and bright reflections can overwhelm camera sensors

Small objects – Most ACC systems have trouble consistently detecting motorcycles, bicycles, pedestrians

While ACC has its limits, it‘s remarkably helpful day-to-day in reducing driver burden. But expect some occasionally quirky behavior so you‘re not caught off guard!

ACC Availability Across Vehicle Makes

ACC technology premiered in 1992, but only became popular on luxury cars in the early 2000s. ACC is now commonplace across all major auto brands:

And it‘s a standard feature on most luxury vehicles:

With so many automakers offering ACC, it‘s now an expected convenience feature for car buyers.

Comparing OEM Adaptive Cruise Systems

While ACC capabilities are similar across brands, there are some notable differences between automaker systems:

Mercedes-Benz Distronic

  • Industry-leading ACC technology since introduced in 1998
  • Uses long-range 77 GHz radar + stereo cameras
  • Capable of full stop-and-go operation
  • Automatically adjusts speed for curves and junctions

GM Super Cruise

  • Camera + radar ACC combined with precision GPS mapping
  • Enables hands-free driving on limited access highways
  • Driver attention monitoring via face tracking camera

Nissan ProPilot Assist

  • Budget ACC + lane centering system
  • Smooth performance but more limited capability
  • Delayed responses compared to premium systems

Toyota Dynamic Radar Cruise

  • Lower speed operation down to 25mph
  • Conservative speed adjustment when following
  • Prone to leaving large gaps in traffic

Overall Mercedes sets the benchmark for ACC performance and capability in my opinion, with German automakers continuing to lead the way.

Adding ACC to Older Vehicles

You don‘t need to buy a new car to experience ACC convenience. There are aftermarket ACC systems available to add radar-based speed adaptation to older vehicles:

Comma Two : $1100 standalone ACC system powered by camera and radar sensors. Installs by connecting directly to vehicle CAN bus. Impressive capabilities given aftermarket nature.

Autocruise : $2500 ACC system requiring professional installation. Uses front camera and radar sensors. Provides ACC + lane centering.

RoadMate : $1800 radar-only ACC system. Easier self-install with OBDII plug-in. But limited braking capability.

Aftermarket systems provide a taste of ACC and advanced driver assist capabilities. But overall, OEM automaker ACC integration delivers a smoother and more reliable driver experience.

The Road to Fully Autonomous Driving

A key benefit of ACC systems is paving the way for fully autonomous self-driving vehicle (SDV) technology. The cruise control computers, radars, and cameras ACC relies on provide the foundational sensing and actuation building blocks for SDVs.

Here are some of the key ACC enhancements feeding into full autonomy:

Improved camera imaging – Higher resolution, HDR, night vision, wider field of view

Sensor fusion – Combining radar, camera and ultrasounds for 360 degree coverage

Tighter vehicle integration – Braking and steering authority expanded beyond ACC

Detailed 3D mapping – Ultra-precise maps enable self-driving without relying solely on sensors

V2X communication – Sharing intent and sensor data with nearby vehicles, infrastructure

Redundant systems – Backup sensors, computers, and actuators to maximize safety

The big challenge is mastering full self-driving in complex urban environments. While ACC handles long boring highway drives, crowded city streets require an entirely new level of autonomous driving expertise.

Optimizing ACC for the Future

As an auto tech expert, I see great potential ahead for ACC technology. But there are also improvements I‘d love to see:

Quicker reactions – Faster stopping when vehicle cuts in front

All speed operation – ACC availability even in start-stop traffic

Improved object detection – Identifying pedestrians, cyclists, animals

Left/right radar – Side-facing sensors to monitor blind spots

Personalization – Driver tailored ACC preferences and profiles

Intuitive controls – Simplifying overly complex ACC settings menus

Seamless transitions – Handoff between ACC, lane centering and parking systems

Driver monitoring – Alerts for distraction and loss of attention

With future refinement, ACC can move beyond just being a convenience feature and provide truly safe semi-autonomous driving.

Challenges Facing Consumer ACC Adoption

Despite the benefits of ACC, there are still barriers to mass consumer adoption:

Cost – Only available on higher trim models outside budget for many car buyers

Trust – Drivers underestimate capabilities and effectiveness of ACC

Complexity – Many settings overwhelm drivers new to the technology

Reliability – Sensor degradation and performance concerns over vehicle lifetime

Education – Lack of ACC training for consumers

Addressing these challenges will be key for ACC to transition from a luxury feature to a standard capability that drivers actually use day-to-day.

Testing and Validating Adaptive Cruise Systems

Before ACC systems hit the road, automakers put them through rigorous testing to ensure safety:

Hardware-in-the-Loop – Validating ACC sensor + ECU integration

Test track assessment – Repeated runs observing ACC capability in action

Scenario testing – Emulating cut-ins, curved roads, weather effects

Naturalistic driving – Recording ACC use in real uncontrolled driving

Simulation – Modeling ACC components and logic virtually

Public road testing – Validation in early prototype vehicles

Safety audits – Third-party review of ACC functionality

Months of testing provides confidence in ACC operation. But it‘s impossible to evaluate every edge case scenario an ACC system may encounter once on the road.

Insider ACC Troubleshooting Tips

To dig deeper into ACC, I connected with Sam who works on ACC radar sensor calibration at General Motors. He shared some pro tips on troubleshooting ACC issues:

"One problem we see is radar misalignment that prevents ACC from detecting vehicles ahead accurately. This can occur if the radar or front bumper gets even slightly shifted, say due to a minor collision. I recommend first visually inspecting the radar position and realigning if necessary. Also watch out for mud or snow buildup around the sensor which can block radio waves."
"Software bugs are another ACC gremlin, like incorrect gap distance or delayed braking. But these can often be remedied with an ECU update at the dealership. And make sure the windshield in front of the camera is squeaky clean for camera-based systems! Dirty glass is an easy pitfall."

So when ACC acts up, check for sensor obstructions, misalignment, and also ask your dealer to verify the latest software is installed.

I hope this ACC deep dive has helped shed light on how this clever technology works and what the future holds. Let me know if you have any other ACC questions!

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What Is Adaptive Cruise Control?

Automatic braking system avoid pedestrian illustration

NatalyaBurova | Getty Images

Advanced Driver-Assist Systems Make Our Lives Easier (and Safer)

Sadly, millions of people are involved in car crashes every year. According to the CDC, about 90 people die each day in the U.S. as a result of a car crash. However, crash fatalities are decreasing almost every year, even though there are more cars on the road. While the reasons for the decline aren’t clear-cut, advances in overall vehicle safety and advanced driver-assist systems seem to be contributing to the decline.


While most of today’s cars offer multiple driver-assist features, cruise control is still arguably one of the greatest advancements in the history of car technology. Interestingly, the feature was first invented over 60 years ago. Since then, there have been notable improvements that make the latest versions of cruise control safer and much more useful. 

The invention of cruise control, along with its evolution to adaptive cruise control, marked the beginning of what may eventually lead to self-driving cars. Continue reading to learn all about adaptive cruise control.

Close-Up Of Cruise Control Button In Car

Sara Dalsecco | EyeEm

The History of Cruise Control

Various forms of cruise control were used in cars dating all the way back to the beginning of the twentieth century. However, modern cruise control was invented by American engineer Ralph Teetor in 1948. He secured a patent for the technology in 1950, and it made its way into passenger cars by the 1960s.

Teeter came up with the idea while riding along in a car with his lawyer. As a passenger in the car, he noticed that every time his lawyer talked, the car changed speeds.

Adaptive cruise control’s roots date back to 1992 when Mitsubishi launched a Lidar-based distance-detection system in Japan. However, the technology didn’t adjust the car’s speed on its own, but rather alerted the driver to take action. 

By 1995, Mitsubishi improved the system to adjust the car’s speed on its own via transmission and throttle management, though actual braking was still controlled by the driver. In the early 2000s, many automakers started offering their own, more advanced versions of adaptive cruise control.

Cruise Control Icon

LeshkaSmok | Getty Images

What Is Cruise Control?

To most people, this may seem like a silly question. However, to better understand the evolution of cruise control, it’s important to take a look at its basic functionality.

Cruise control is a system designed to automatically control a vehicle’s speed, which the driver must pre-set after activating. It’s most useful for long highway or freeway drives, and/or in areas where there’s not much traffic, or a need to stop often. Cruise control isn’t very useful at low speeds, or in areas where there are many stop signs or traffic lights.

With cruise control engaged, you don’t have to keep your foot on the accelerator pedal or work to maintain a consistent speed. This means you can more easily adjust your seating position, rest your legs and feet, and focus on other aspects of driving. As an aside, keeping a car at a consistent speed typically leads to better fuel economy.

The controls and buttons for cruise control vary among vehicles. Typically, they’re found on either the steering wheel or a stalk on the steering column. The driver holds a steady speed using the accelerator pedal and then “sets” the speed before taking their foot off the pedal. There are also “+” and “-” buttons to change speed incrementally, as well as a button to disengage the feature and/or resume the pre-set speed. Touching the brake pedal immediately turns off cruise control.

Adaptive Cruise Control with steer assist illustration

Volvo Cars of North America |

Adaptive cruise control (ACC) is a system that helps cars stay within the speed limit or the pre-set speed while maintaining a safe, predetermined distance behind a “leading” car. When the vehicle in front of you speeds up or slows down, the system adjusts the car’s speed as necessary. 

Some advanced adaptive cruise control systems have “stop-and-go” technology – sometimes called traffic jam assist. This means the system will, when necessary, bring the car to a complete stop, wait for traffic to clear or for the leading car to begin moving, and then accelerate again to the speed limit or pre-set speed. The system continues to maintain a safe distance throughout these maneuvers.

While adaptive cruise control is the most commonly used term for this technology, different automakers have different names for it. If you read that a car offers smart cruise control, active cruise control, automatic cruise control, dynamic cruise control, radar cruise control, or intelligent cruise control, be sure to find out exactly what the feature’s capabilities are.

Most importantly, find out if the feature adjusts the car’s speed on its own, and if it has stop-and-go capability. Be sure to test-drive any vehicle before buying or leasing it. Get acquainted with the adaptive cruise control feature during your test drive. Make sure you understand exactly how it works and what it’s capable of before moving forward with the transaction.

Volvo XC90 Adaptive Cruise Control in work

How Does Adaptive Cruise Control Work?

Various car manufacturers have different technologies for adaptive cruise control. However, the basic idea is the same. The car uses either a laser or radar to measure the distance to the leading vehicle. These are essentially the same lasers and radars used for features like forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking. They’re also used in vehicles with semi-autonomous technology. For this reason, it’s fair to say that cruise control was the first step toward what may eventually evolve into self-driving vehicle technology.

It’s important to note that some laser-based adaptive cruise control systems won’t function properly in inclement weather and/or if the sensors are wet or dirty. Radar-based systems are largely unaffected by weather or debris. While more systems employ radar than lasers, be sure to find out which technology your car – or the car you’re planning on buying – uses.

Adaptive cruise control isn’t often a standalone technology. Instead, it’s usually part of a suite of safety systems that work together. If a car has adaptive cruise control, it likely also has forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking. Some more advanced vehicles also have pedestrian detection, as well as systems that help keep your car in its lane, or even help steer the car on the highway when adaptive cruise control is engaged.

Macro of warning signs in car dashboard

dimarik | Getty Images

What Are the Limitations of Adaptive Cruise Control?

Like almost all vehicle safety technologies, adaptive cruise control is constantly improving. However, it’s still not a substitute for a human driver. While adaptive cruise control is meant to reduce stress and make driving easier, you still need to remain aware, engaged, and ready to take over the accelerator and brake pedal at a moment’s notice.

Adaptive cruise control isn’t meant to steer the car, though other complementary safety systems may help with steering as well. Adaptive cruise control systems with stop-and-go technology will monitor the car in front of you and adjust the speed accordingly. Some systems even observe speed limit signs and slow down around tight curves. With that said, if another driver slams on the brakes in front of you, cuts you off, or makes a sudden maneuver, you should immediately take over. Remember, some cruise control systems either won’t operate or shouldn’t be used in inclement weather.

While your car may also have features like automatic emergency braking, you can’t count on those features to do the job for you. Instead, the features are there just in case you don’t react quickly enough.

Mercedes-Benz steering wheel and cruise control on center display

Mercedes-Benz USA |

Should You Avoid Cars That Don’t Have Adaptive Cruise Control?

When searching for a new or used car, you should try to prioritize finding a vehicle with as many of the latest advanced driver-assist systems as possible. This is especially true if you plan to keep the car for many years. 

Safety is of the utmost importance when shopping for a car. As vehicle safety systems are improving rapidly, it doesn’t take long for a car’s safety systems to become dated or even considered obsolete. For this reason, making sure you have the latest advanced driver-assist systems means you’ll be able to keep your car for a longer period of time before its features are no longer consistent with the most up-to-date technologies.

Automatic stop and go function in traffic jam illustration

Chesky_W | Getty Images

Is Adaptive Cruise Control Worth it?

It depends. While any technology that will make your life easier and safer is arguably worth it, adaptive cruise control can be a pricey option in some cars. You may have to buy a trim above the base and/or add a package. However, in many cars, adaptive cruise control comes standard, usually as part of a full suite of active safety technologies.

When you’re shopping for a car, make sure it comes equipped with as many safety systems as possible. If you have your eyes on a vehicle, and you learn that it doesn’t include a suite of safety systems, find out how much it costs to add them. If it exceeds your budget, you may want to consider a competing model that includes adaptive cruise control and other safety systems as standard.

2021 Honda Civic rear 3/4 view

American Honda Motor Co., Inc. |

Which Cars Have Adaptive Cruise Control?

Nearly every automaker offers adaptive cruise control. However, some systems are more advanced than others. Automakers such as Audi, BMW, Ford, Honda, Hyundai, Kia, Nissan, and Toyota are generally known for having some of the best advanced driver-assist systems, though many other brands offer adaptive cruise control technology that works well.

While advanced driver-assist systems like adaptive cruise control were once reserved for luxury cars or top-level trims on larger cars and SUVs, that’s not the case today. In fact, well-priced small cars like the Honda Civic , Mazda3 , Subaru Legacy , and Toyota Corolla come standard with adaptive cruise control. Even budget-mobiles, such as the Honda Fit and Nissan Versa offer the feature.

Many of today’s SUVs come standard with adaptive cruise control as well, and those that don’t have it on the base model still offer it as an upgrade. The feature even comes standard on some small, relatively inexpensive SUVs, including the Honda CR-V , Mazda CX-3 and CX-30 , Subaru Forester , and Toyota C-HR . To see a list of the cheapest cars and SUVs with adaptive cruise control, click here .

More on the 2021 Honda Civic

  • See 2021 Honda Civic Photos  »
  • Find 2021 Honda Civic For Sale  »
  • Read the 2021 Honda Civic Full Review  »
  • See 2021 Compact Car Rankings  »

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If you’re in the market for a new car, check out our new car rankings to compare different models and see which vehicles offer adaptive cruise control. Also, be sure to visit our new car financing deals and lease deals pages to learn about the best current manufacturer-sponsored incentives on new cars, trucks, and SUVs.

When it comes time to move forward, use our U.S. News Best Price Program to find the dealer near you with the best pre-negotiated pricing. Shoppers who use the program to buy or lease a new car save an average of more than $3,200 off MSRP.

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What is adaptive cruise control?

It’s not a stretch to call cruise control one of the earliest driving aids. It wasn’t always electronic, and it certainly didn’t make your grandfather’s 1982 Cadillac Seville autonomous, but it was a revolutionary invention. (Although here’s a fun fact: Your grandfather’s Buick had the first infotainment system way back in 1986.)

What to look for in an adaptive cruise control system

What do automakers call adaptive cruise control, are there aftermarket adaptive cruise control systems, who does adaptive cruise control best.

Adaptive cruise control takes it to the next level. It maintains a set speed for your vehicle, like a conventional cruise control system, but it also adjusts the speed based on the traffic flow. Better systems can come you a full stop in heavy traffic and continue when congestion lightens. This technology can make cruise control more useful by taking some (but not all) of the workload off the driver. Here’s what it is, and how it works.

The concept is simple: Make the car accelerates and decelerates automatically depending on how quickly the cars around it are moving. The devil’s in the details, however.

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To do it, a car must be equipped with sensors that allow it to detect nearby vehicles and potential obstacles. Most adaptive cruise control systems use radar, with high resolution radar on the horizon, although a camera and lidar (which works on the same principle as radar, but with light waves) can be used as well. You can often spot these cameras integrated into the grille or mounted behind the windshield. These sensors communicate with a computer that controls the throttle and, sometimes, the brakes and the steering system.

In its most basic form, adaptive cruise control technology only handles acceleration and deceleration, usually by following the car in front and maintaining a set following distance. Some automakers have started bundling this feature with a system that can bring the car to a full stop if needed, which comes in handy in a traffic jam, and/or one that provides a limited amount of steering assistance to keep the car centered in its lane.

Adaptive cruise control is at the center of the pile of electronic driving aids some automakers believe could form the basis of fully autonomous driving . We’re nowhere near autonomous cars, though, and it’s important not to mistake adaptive cruise control and other related technologies for full autonomy. These systems are designed to help the driver, not to drive the car themselves while the driver dozes off or counts blue cars going the other way.

Adaptive cruise control is sometimes known as dynamic radar cruise control or intelligent cruise control, and most automakers give the system brand names to make it more marketable. Regardless, the basic idea is that a car accelerates and decelerates automatically depending on how quickly the cars around it are moving.

BMW:  Active Cruise Control, Active Cruise Control with Stop and Go Cadillac: Super Cruise Honda and Acura:  Adaptive Cruise Control, Adaptive Cruise Control with Low-Speed Follow Hyundai:  Smart Cruise Control Kia:  Advanced Smart Cruise Control Mercedes-Benz:  Active Distance Assist Distronic Nissan and Infiniti: Intelligent Cruise Control, a part of Nissan’s ProPilot 2.0 system Subaru: Adaptive Cruise Control, Adaptive Cruise Control with Lane Centering, part of the brand’s EyeSight package Tesla: Autopilot Toyota and Lexus : Dynamic Cruise Control, Dynamic Cruise Control with Stop and Go

This is one technology that cannot easily be retrofitted to an existing car. The complexity of adaptive cruise control systems puts them beyond the reach of the aftermarket. Considering that these systems can mean the difference between a car driving along and a car smashing into the back of another vehicle, concerns over liability will probably keep adaptive cruise control firmly within the domain of the original equipment manufacturers for the time being.

Like systems available from other automakers, Cadillac’s Super Cruise  allows the car to accelerate, steer, and brake without driver intervention on highways. But Cadillac is the only automaker to specifically claim that drivers can take their hands off the wheel. That’s because Cadillac did a thorough job in setting up Super Cruise. Not only does the system rely on an array of cameras, radar, and lidar, but Cadillac also mapped 200,000 miles of highway. Super Cruise also has a driver-facing camera, and will only work if a certain level of driver alertness is maintained.

It’s too bad Super Cruise isn’t widely available, at least, not yet. Cadillac launched the system on its flagship CT6 sedan but has been slow to expand to other models. With the CT6 set to be discontinued, Cadillac finally announced that Super Cruise will be available on the CT4 and CT5 sedans when they go on sale in the coming months. Those sedans use a new electrical architecture that can support Super Cruise.

Subaru’s EyeSight system uses cameras instead of radar, bringing down its cost and making installation of the hardware a bit easier. EyeSight bundles adaptive cruise control with lane-keeping assist, a “pre-collision throttle management” feature that cuts the throttle ahead of an anticipated collision, and low-speed autonomous emergency braking. On some models, Subaru has also added a driver-facing camera to ensure the driver stays alert while these features are in use.


Mercedes offers one of the most comprehensive adaptive cruise control and driver-assistance suites of any automaker. Its latest Distronic Plus system can keep up with traffic, but also brake the car to a full stop in stop-and-go situations. The system will automatically resume driving if the car remains stopped for less than three seconds; longer stops require a tap of the accelerator pedal or of the cruise control’s “resume” button. A steering-assist feature helps keep the car centered in its lane, and certain versions of the system can initiate lane changes.

Tesla’s Autopilot system  has attracted its share of controversy, and the name is a bit misleading considering that a human driver must be kept in the loop, but it’s still one of the most advanced systems of its kind. In addition to following traffic and automatically keeping a car in its lane, Autopilot can execute lane changes with the flick of a turn signal, and negotiate some highway off-ramps. Tesla’s ability to pull data from cars using the system and launch over-the-air software updates means Autopilot has significant potential to improve over time.

It’s no surprise that an automaker obsessed with safety was an early adopter of adaptive cruise control. Volvo was also one of the first automakers to pair the technology with autonomous emergency braking, allowing a car to both automatically follow a vehicle in front and brake if it encounters an obstacle. Volvo’s latest Pilot Assist II system doesn’t need to track a vehicle ahead, can a keep a car centered in its lane, and can operate at speeds up to 80 mph.

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I tried adaptive cruise control on these EVs — and it changed the way I drive

Drivers may be surprised trying it out for the first time

Hyundai Ioniq 6 SE RWD (2024).

Three EVs and one PHEV in, there’s one feature I’ve been constantly leaning on my quest to drive the best electric cars around. It’s adaptive cruise control (ACC), which is also commonly referred to as dynamic cruise control and smart cruise control depending on the car maker. They all basically follow the premise of maintaining your vehicle’s speed while driving, but with the ability to steer the wheel for you as well so that you stay centered in your lane.

I can’t tell you how it’s the single thing that’s changing my habits, which I explained in detail when I test drove the Lexus TX550H+ and let it take over the wheel for me . This feature isn’t just exclusive to EVs because it’s been in many gas-powered vehicles and hybrids for a long while now, leveraging different technologies, such as LiDAR, sonar, radar, and even the cameras around the car.

For those still driving much older vehicles, say 10+ years old, they could find the experience of using adaptive cruise control a bit jarring when they upgrade — which could dissuade them from using it entirely. After driving multiple EVs with adaptive cruise control, I realize it serves its purpose more often than not. Here’s when you should and shouldn’t use it.

Perfect for highways

Cruise control has always been a driver’s best friend for those long trips on highways. Adaptive cruise control makes it even better because today’s vehicles can intelligently identify other moving vehicles — especially the one right in front of you.

When I test drove the Hyundai Ioniq 6 for a week , I was impressed by its ability to distance itself from the car in front of me while driving the speed limit on highways. When it senses it’s getting too close to the vehicle in front of me, or when an adjacent vehicle enters my lane, the Ioniq 6’s adaptive cruise control system automatically applies the appropriate amount of braking.

Even when the highway’s making a bend further up in the road, the Ioniq 6’s driver assist mode moves the steering wheel accordingly for me — all while maintaining my lane and speed.

Even great when switching lanes

@tomsguide ♬ Lofi Vibes - Gentle State

Taking things to the next level, I was astounded by the lane change assist feature while test driving the Kia EV9. My colleague Kate Kozuch also tried this helpful driving feature out when she test drove the Mustang Mach-E GT very recently, which performed a lane change on its own thanks to Ford’s BlueCruise self-driving technology .

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I tried out a similar lane changing assist feature with the Kia EV9 , and when paired with adaptive cruise control, I’m impressed by how it makes driving even easier (and safer too). Again, I think it works well on highways when you want to change lanes because adaptive cruise control continues to maintain the car’s speed — while also detecting other vehicles while it’s making a lane change.

Less burden with congestion driving

Kia EV9

During my commute back home from New York City, congestion on the roads eventually brought traffic on the highway to its usual stop-and-go flow. With adaptive cruise control and driver assist enabled on the Kia EV9, it’s the perfect pairing for congestion driving on the highway.

That’s because the EV9’s able to apply the appropriate amount of braking and acceleration to keep its distance with the vehicle in front of me. Gridlock traffic is already a burden for all drivers on the road, but I love how this makes it less of a hassle. Even when the vehicle in front of me comes to a complete stop, adaptive cruise control automatically gets the vehicle moving once it clears up.

Although, I always kept my foot lighting over the brake because you just never know . I recommend that you do the same when using adaptive cruise control because it's the fail-safe method to instantly give back complete control of your vehicle.

Tough on local roads with faint lines

chevy bolt electric car

Now, one of the times I found it challenging to use adaptive cruise control was on city streets with faintly painted lines on the road. That’s because both the Ioniq 6 and EV9 struggled to keep their respective driver assist modes on to keep me centered in the lane. I’m able to recognize this because the dashboard display would normally show green lines alongside the car to indicate that it can stay centered in the lane.

Of course, it would go green whenever it can reestablish those lines on the road, but I wouldn’t lean on adaptive cruise control a whole lot when they’re indistinct.

Winding roads are troublesome

a still from the Road 96 Steam trailer

And finally, I would absolutely tell you to disengage adaptive cruise control on those long, winding roads that have you hitting steep inclines and tight turns. One of the challenges I encountered while driving with it on winding roads is that it wants to maintain the vehicle’s rate.

Naturally, this works wonderfully on straightaways and such, but it’s jarring when it encounters an incline because adaptive cruise control lacks human perception to anticipate road changes. For example, I found adaptive cruise control accelerating a little after going up a hill to maintain its speed — rather than anticipating the incline and accelerating beforehand to help sustain the vehicle’s momentum.

Furthermore, tight turns are nearly impossible for adaptive cruise control because it doesn’t adjust the vehicle’s speed ahead of time. It’s jarring when it’s cruising at 35 mph and wants to take a bend in the road at the same speed, rather than dialing down as the speed limit sign suggests.

While it’s not perfect for all driving conditions, I still find more benefits with using adaptive cruise control. Even though some parts of the technology help to propel fully automated vehicles, I need to remind everyone using this that it’s still an assistive feature — so it’s not meant to replace you entirely as the driver.

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John’s a senior editor covering phones for Tom’s Guide. He’s no stranger in this area having covered mobile phones and gadgets since 2008 when he started his career. On top of his editor duties, he’s a seasoned videographer being in front and behind the camera producing YouTube videos. Previously, he held editor roles with PhoneArena, Android Authority, Digital Trends, and SPY. Outside of tech, he enjoys producing mini documentaries and fun social clips for small businesses, enjoying the beach life at the Jersey Shore, and recently becoming a first time homeowner.

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adaptive cruise control vs dynamic

What is adaptive cruise control and how does it work?

adaptive cruise control vs dynamic

Adaptive cruise control (ACC) is an active safety system that automatically controls the acceleration and braking of a vehicle. It is activated through a button on the steering wheel and cancelled by driver’s braking and/or another button.


Adaptive cruise control automatically controls the acceleration and braking of a vehicle.

How adaptive cruise control works

By monitoring other vehicles and objects on the road, adaptive cruise control enables a safe and comfortable driving experience. It does so by helping the driver keep a steady vehicle speed at a given moment. The driver can set their preference regarding certain factors, such as the distance to the car in front, driving mode – for example, economical, sporty or comfortable – and others. Together with information about speed limits, road curvature, accidents data and more, these choices influence the automatically selected speed.

Cruise control has come a long way from its early days in its quest to assist drivers on the road. When first introduced, it was only found in luxury car models due to its high production cost. As less expensive sensors reached the market, adaptive cruise control is steadily becoming a standard feature in new vehicles today.

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.


Intelligent speed assistance with the TomTom ADAS Map

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. 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.


Adaptive cruise control helps drivers adjust the speed of their vehicle.

The TomTom ADAS Map: designed for intelligent cruise control use cases

Intelligent cruise control use cases rely on data beyond sensors. The TomTom ADAS Map is designed for this purpose, providing a range of attributes that power modern ADAS systems.

Since it needs to meet the highest of expectations in terms of correctness as well as being up to date, the quality of map data is of utmost importance. This way, it can confidently fulfill ADAS use cases.

“ Around the world today, over one million SAE Level 1 and Level 2 automated vehicles use the TomTom ADAS Map – both private and commercial. Having doubled in less than one year, this number is bound to rise in the future. Tsjerk-Friso Roelfzema


The TomTom ADAS Map covers 5.5 million kilometers in 73 countries.

The TomTom ADAS Map includes the following attributes:

Gradient Enables predictive gear-shifting to optimize energy use.

Curvature on road Helps with driving strategy choices, such as selecting a safe speed for the upcoming bend.

Curvature at junction Helps with driving strategy choices at roundabouts and junctions, without cruise control cancellation (selecting a safe speed).

Traffic sign Helps with driving strategy choices, such as fuel-efficient slowing down ahead of an upcoming stop.

Speed restriction Helps with driving strategy choices, such as selecting a safe speed.

Lane at junction Complements the vision of the system's detections. Completes curvature data for wider roads.


The five levels of autonomous driving

Bosch and TomTom

Bosch has developed several ADAS functions relying on TomTom ADAS Map data services for intelligent cruise control, upcoming curve alerts and jam tail warnings. All these are critical components for car manufacturers developing the latest standard in automated driving systems.

adaptive cruise control vs dynamic

What is the future of adaptive cruise control?

The benefits of adaptive cruise control make it a worthwhile technology to continue investing in. It provides longitudinal control of a vehicle, such as acceleration and braking. Increasingly, it can be combined with steering assist technology like lane centering for automated lane changes. The longitudinal and lateral control systems working together leads to autonomous driving, the next mobility revolution, which is expected to evolve rapidly over the next decade.

TomTom creates technologies for a moving world that supports all levels of autonomous driving. To learn more about how the ADAS Map is already powering automated vehicles on the road today, download the product sheet.

Want to learn more? Download the TomTom ADAS Map product sheet.

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Edmunds: Adaptive cruise systems are not made equal

This undated photo provided by Edmunds shows a typical set of controls to set and change the following distance of adaptive cruise control. Adaptive cruise control, once only seen on luxury vehicles, has now become increasingly available on entry-level models. (Rex Tokeshi-Torres/Edmunds via AP)

This undated photo provided by Edmunds shows a typical set of controls to set and change the following distance of adaptive cruise control. Adaptive cruise control, once only seen on luxury vehicles, has now become increasingly available on entry-level models. (Rex Tokeshi-Torres/Edmunds via AP)

This undated photo provided by Edmunds shows how adaptive cruise control can deactivate under predetermined speeds and in certain vehicles. Adaptive cruise control, once only seen on luxury vehicles, has now become increasingly available on entry-level models. (Rex Tokeshi-Torres/Edmunds via AP)

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Adaptive cruise control, once only seen on luxury vehicles, has now become increasingly available on entry-level models. For example, nearly every new Honda and Toyota vehicle comes with this feature as standard equipment. Five years ago, hardly any of them offered it, even as an option.

But not all adaptive cruise systems are made alike. While the overall goal is to keep you at a set speed and distance from the vehicle in front, there are key differences in the technology that car shoppers should be aware of.

We test hundreds of cars a year at Edmunds, giving us plenty of experience with observing how these systems work and how they differ. Here’s what we found.


Traditional cruise control allows you to set a fixed speed, thereby allowing you to take your foot off the gas pedal. Adaptive cruise control, also known as dynamic cruise or smart cruise, goes further by detecting and reacting to the vehicles ahead of you. How it goes about this varies by the automaker and the type of technology used, which ranges from radar-based systems to those with sophisticated cameras.

You set a speed and following distance, which is usually in increments of car lengths. If a vehicle within the set following distance slows down, your vehicle will automatically slow down as well to maintain that set distance. When the vehicle in front speeds up, your vehicle will automatically speed up to keep the same distance. It will only accelerate up to the cruise control speed limit that you set, however.


The systems will differ based on the automaker-programmed behaviors and the sensors on the vehicle. Here are some of the key differences.

— Following distance: Automakers can have varying interpretations of a car length. On the BMW 5 Series for example, it will be closer to one-and-a-half car lengths. More basic systems will be more conservative by following two car lengths behind, as seen in the Lexus GS.

— Minimum speed setting: Some allow you to set the speed at a minimum of 15 mph (or even lower), while others require a minimum of 25 mph and above before you can engage the adaptive cruise, like with the Honda Odyssey.

— Reaction times: Some systems will operate smoothly and naturally, much like a good human driver would. Others can be overly lurchy when applying the brakes or aggravatingly slow when it’s time to accelerate.

— Stop-and-go traffic behavior: When following a vehicle at a set distance, some systems are able to slow down and come to a complete stop like the Volkswagen Atlas with “ACC with Stop and Go,” while others deactivate adaptive cruise if you drop below 25 mph, like the aforementioned Odyssey. Systems that come to a stop might require the driver to push a button or the gas pedal to get going again.

— Predictive/reactionary capabilities: More advanced systems can also see the lanes next to you and begin to slow down when they sense a vehicle beginning to merge into your lane.


Two vehicles equipped with good adaptive cruise are the Toyota Prius and Volkswagen Atlas. While the Prius is a bit on the conservative side in terms of following distance, it does brake smoothly. The Atlas’ system also has a natural braking feel when slowing down and allows you to set a closer following distance than the Prius, if that’s what you want.

The current Mercedes-Benz E 53 AMG equipped with the advanced adaptive cruise found in the “Driver Assistance Package” is a standout model that maintains a more accurate following distance than the Prius and the Atlas. It also comes to a complete stop and will automatically reengage once the car in front of you moves forward.

Using adaptive cruise can help make driving less fatiguing. But there have been a few times in past evaluations when Edmunds’ drivers needed to intervene. In one specific case with a 2017 Infiniti QX30, a slow-moving vehicle in front moved out of the lane and another vehicle quickly took its place. The adaptive cruise only recognized the vehicle moving away and, because our driver had a higher cruising speed set, almost sped us into the other vehicle. This move could have resulted in an accident if not for our driver’s intervention.

EDMUNDS SAYS: It’s important to know the limitations of your vehicle’s adaptive cruise control in order to use it safely. Make this part of your research when looking into a new car. And if you already own one, crack open the owner’s manual. Finally, keep in mind that adaptive cruise control is a driver aid. It is not meant to replace your role as an attentive driver.

This story was provided to The Associated Press by the automotive website Edmunds. Rex Tokeshi-Torres is a vehicle testing technician at Edmunds. Twitter: @trackwrex.

Related links:

— Edmunds examines 3 semi-autonomous driving systems:

— Edmunds examines costly side effect of safety tech:

adaptive cruise control vs dynamic

adaptive cruise control vs dynamic

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What is Adaptive Cruise Control?

Sam McEachern

With semi-autonomous active safety systems becoming commonplace, more and more vehicles are beginning to offer adaptive cruise control as either optional or standard equipment.

You have probably seen the words ‘Adaptive Cruise Control’ printed in advertisements and mentioned in car reviews, but what exactly is it? In this post, we’re going to answer that and other frequently asked questions with regards to adaptive cruise and also give you a brief backgrounder on the history of the technology. We’ll also touch upon other radar, lidar and camera-based active safety technologies that adaptive cruise control technology helped to make possible, such as collision mitigation braking.

As you probably already know, a normal cruise control system allows you to set a vehicle speed using a button, say 100 km/h, for example, and then coast at that speed without having to make any throttle inputs.

SEE ALSO: The Pros and Cons of Conventional and Adaptive Cruise Control

With normal cruise control, it typically only works for highway driving where there is no traffic because hitting the brakes will cancel cruise control and it’s up to the driver to adjust your vehicle’s speed to the flow of traffic using the brakes.

Adaptive cruise control will do this automatically, using radar, lidar or cameras to detect the speed at which vehicles in front are moving and then automatically adjusting the speed to match and keep a safe distance. The driver can use buttons (usually located on the steering wheel) to a set a car length-based distance from the vehicle ahead, ranging from 2-4 car lengths in many vehicles. The distance is often displayed using bars, sometimes in the TFT display in the vehicle’s instrument cluster.

what is adaptive cruise control

There are a few different types of cruise control on the market today offering different levels of capability. Full adaptive cruise control, such as Mercedes-Benz’s Distronic system, will offer ‘Traffic Jam Assist’ or ‘Stop & Go’. These higher-end systems have no speed restrictions and will bring the vehicle to a full stop if necessary and also progressively accelerate up to the preset speed when the car in front has moved. Sometimes if the car has stopped for more than a predetermined time, say, 7 seconds, for example, the driver has to hit the accelerator briefly or resume driving using a button on the steering wheel.

ALSO SEE: CVT Transmission Pros and Cons

Adaptive cruise control in some cheaper vehicle models won’t have full Stop & Go functionality and will be restricted to highway speeds and not bumper-to-bumper traffic, but will usually be paired with a forward collision warning and/or collision mitigation system. These systems will alert you when an object is within a certain range of the front of the vehicle, alerting the driver in the event they aren’t paying attention. If the vehicle gets too close to an object without the brakes being applied, it will begin to brake automatically — so long as the vehicle has collision mitigation braking as well.

Technology likes this can make the driving task easier. Standard cruise control and adaptive cruise control are helpful in long-haul driving scenarios, while the more advanced adaptive cruise control can alleviate stress in traffic. Forward collision alert and collision mitigation braking attempt to reduce the chances of drivers being involved in rear-end collisions, which are on the rise in the U.S. in part due to distracted driving from cellphone use.

Cool! So How Does it Work?

what is adaptive cruise control

There are a few different types of adaptive cruise control on the market. Some systems are radar-based (these are the most commonplace), while others use cameras or a combination of radar and cameras. Some systems are laser-based, although these are much less common these days.

A radar-based system, such as Toyota’s Dynamic Radar Cruise Control system, use a front-mounted radar transmitter to detect objects ahead. The radar will detect how far away a vehicle is in real-time and communicate this information with your vehicle, allowing it to maintain a consistent distance from the vehicle ahead as you drive down the road. Some of these radars will be built into a vehicle’s front fascia or worked into the existing grille badge, like the Genesis fascia pictured below.

what is adaptive cruise control

A camera-based system, such as Subaru EyeSight , uses cameras to scan the road ahead. These systems will use a computer to read the camera’s image and help to detect and identify various objects on the road including vehicles and pedestrians. EyeSight is a bit more simple and straightforward than comparable adaptive cruise control systems and enables Subaru to implement semi-autonomous safety tech on most of its vehicles.

A radar and camera-based system, like Mercedes-Benz’s Distronic Plus system, uses both radars and cameras to scan the road ahead. The cameras can pick up some information that radar may not be able to, such as traffic sign data, vehicle brake lights and turn signals, while radar scans for vehicles and objects in the vehicle’s direct path. This all-seeing radar/camera combo is usually implemented to enable advanced semi-autonomous functions, such as the Lane Steer Assist and Stop & Go Pilot Traffic Jam Assist. Tesla Autopilot also uses a combination of radar and cameras to enable semi-autonomous functionality.

And How Do I Use It?

This will vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. Most adaptive cruise control systems will operate much like normal cruise control, though. First, set your desired cruising speed. You can then use the distance adjustment buttons to change the following distance from the vehicle ahead. Most automakers display the distance using bars, with 1-4 distance settings usually offered. Follow distance will typically range from 1-4 seconds.

Just like normal cruise control, you can tap the brake to switch the system off or use the on/off button – usually located on the steering wheel. The ‘+’ and ‘-‘ buttons you use to adjust the speed with normal cruise control operate the same way with an adaptive cruise control system.

We highly suggest referring to your vehicle’s owner’s manual before using adaptive cruise control out on public roads. For a rough explanation of how to use such a system, though, we’ve embedded a how-to video below on how to use Honda’s adaptive cruise control system.

Here’s an important reminder: Using adaptive cruise control and even Tesla’s Autopilot still requires a driver’s full attention, so systems still require a driver’s hands to be on the wheel at all times, even if lane-keep assist is active. These tools exist to help make your drive safer and less stressful but it doesn’t mean you can read a book, play a game on your phone, take a nap, or resign your responsibilities as a driver.

Sam McEachern

Sam McEachern holds a diploma in journalism from St. Clair College in Windsor, Ontario, and has been covering the automotive industry for over 5 years. He conducts reviews and writes AutoGuide's news content. He's a die-hard motorsports fan with a passion for performance cars of all sorts.

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  • Car technology

Cruise control and adaptive cruise control explained

Cruise control is a handy feature for long journeys – we explain how to use it.

Cruise control stalk

Cruise control has become a common feature in modern cars, allowing drivers to maintain a steady speed without using the accelerator pedal. Ideal for long motorway drives, traditional cruise control allows you to set a specific speed, giving your right foot a much-needed break. While this tech has been around since the 1960s, the system has evolved in recent decades. The latest adaptive cruise control (ACC) systems use sensors to monitor the traffic ahead, automatically adjusting your car’s speed to maintain a safe following distance.

Different carmakers have their own versions of these systems – Audi’s ‘Adaptive Cruise’, BMW’s ‘Active Cruise Control’, and Volvo’s ‘Pilot Assist’ are just a few examples – and some are more intelligent than others, even changing lanes and steering autonomously. Some cars are also equipped with ‘Traffic Jam Assist’, which can handle stop-and-start traffic, easing the stress of daily commutes.


From straightforward speed control to sophisticated, traffic-responsive systems, cruise control technology can help to take some of the stress out of long journeys. Read on to explore how these features work and how to use them.

What is cruise control?

Cruise control is a system that maintains the speed of a car automatically. Using controls found on or behind the steering wheel, the driver can set a desired speed that the car will continue to follow without any use of the accelerator pedal. It’s found in cars with an automatic or manual gearbox, although its functions are usually more limited in the latter. Most electric cars also come with cruise control.

It’s designed to be used on long A-road or motorway journeys, when prolonged use of the accelerator pedal could cause cramp or soreness in the driver’s right foot. Once a speed has been set, the driver can relax their foot and focus on controlling the car’s steering. The first cruise control systems held the throttle open mechanically, but modern systems are computer-controlled. Many cruise control systems will only activate above a certain minimum speed, usually around 25 to 30mph.

What is adaptive cruise control?

Adaptive cruise control (often abbreviated to ACC) is a more advanced cruise control system that uses lasers, cameras or radar mounted in the front bumper to track the speed and position of the vehicle in front. Cars fitted with the system can automatically match the speed of the vehicle in front and maintain a safe distance. Many systems allow the driver to set their preferred distance to the vehicle in front.

adaptive cruise control

If the vehicle ahead slows down, the driver’s car will also slow down without the need to use the brake pedal. If the vehicle ahead speeds up, the driver’s car will only speed up until it reaches the limit set by the driver. However, only systems paired with an autonomous emergency braking (AEB) system will automatically perform an emergency stop if the car ahead comes to a sudden halt. In 2024 AEB was made a legal requirement for all new cars sold in the UK and the EU.

Adaptive cruise control is sometimes referred to as ‘dynamic’ cruise control, while other automakers use their own names; Mercedes calls it ‘Distronic Plus’ and Porsche, ‘Porsche Active Safe’. 

Some vehicles even have ‘Traffic Jam Assist’, an extension of adaptive cruise control that can automatically slow the car to a halt as well as accelerate and brake at low speeds in congestion, reducing driver fatigue. It’s worth noting that after coming to a halt for more than a few seconds, safety requirements mean driver intervention is usually required; squeezing the accelerator should allow Traffic Jam Assist to resume.

How do I use cruise control?

Check your car’s handbook for the location of the cruise control buttons as they differ from vehicle to vehicle. They are often found in an easy-to-access location, such as on the steering wheel or column stalk, to make them quick and safe to use.

The system can be overridden at any time by pressing on the brake pedal, so you should keep your foot close to the brake in case of emergencies. There may be differences in controls between different manufacturers, so always read your car’s handbook first. Some typical cruise control buttons include:

  • On/off: This activates the system, but probably won’t hold you at your desired speed. Turning it on will almost always be accompanied by a dashboard light.
  • Set: Once the system is switched on, pressing the set button should tell the car to hold the current speed. In most cars this will turn the dashboard indicator green.
  • Cancel: This pauses the cruise control, so you have complete control again, without turning cruise control fully off. The cruise control should still remember the speed you chose to cruise at.
  • Res or resume: Pressing this will see the car accelerate back up to the speed you chose before hitting the cancel button or pressing the brake pedal. You'll still need to change gears in a manual car if necessary. An automatic gearbox will change gears for you.
  • Up and down arrows or ‘+’ and ‘-’: With cruise control activated, use these to increase or decrease the car’s speed. Single presses often increase or decrease the speed in small increments, while holding the same button or stalk changes it in increments of 5mph or even 10mph. Of course, this varies from one model to another.

Cruise control is best used on long stretches of motorway and should be used to maintain a safe speed while the driver pays full attention to their surroundings. Drivers should not treat cruise control like an autonomous driving system, and the driver needs to pay as much attention to the road when using cruise control as they do with regular driving.

What is a speed limiter?

Some cars are fitted with a speed limiter, either alongside cruise control or on its own. As with cruise control, you set the maximum speed you’d like to travel at, but unlike cruise control, you're still required to press down the accelerator. This is ideal for busy speed-limit zones, where you may want to maintain complete control of your speed without exceeding the limit. Squeeze the accelerator, and your car will simply reach your chosen speed and stop accelerating. However, pressing the throttle pedal all the way down will override the system –it’s a fail safe designed to let you accelerate out of trouble if needed. 

What about Intelligent Speed Assistance?

Like Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB), Intelligent Speed Assistance (ISA) is another mandatory safety feature fitted to every new car sold in the UK and the EU from 2024. Unlike a traditional speed limiter above, the ISA system uses your car’s GPS and traffic sign recognition cameras to determine the road’s speed limit. The ISA system then limits your car to this speed, stopping you from breaking the speed limit.

The system can be overridden in certain situations when the driver pushes hard on the accelerator pedal, and it can be turned off entirely. However, the system is automatically reactivated every time you start the car. From July 7th 2024, it is a legal requirement for every new car sold in the UK to come with the technology, including unsold new cars sitting in dealerships that will need to have the system retrofitted.

What is the benefit of cruise control?

When should i use cruise control, is cruise control safe, does cruise control save fuel, car technology made simple….

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adaptive cruise control vs dynamic

Charlie writes and edits news, review and advice articles for Carbuyer , as well as publishing content to its social media platforms. He has also been a regular contributor to its sister titles Auto Express , DrivingElectric  and  evo . As well as being consumed by everything automotive, Charlie is a speaker of five languages and once lived in Chile, Siberia and the Czech Republic, returning to the UK to write about his life-long passion: cars.


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Adaptive cruise control explained

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adaptive cruise control vs dynamic

In theory, traditional cruise control systems are flawless. Find yourself a long road, dial in a speed of your choosing, and, with precious little steering to worry about on Australia’s endlessly straight highways, you can simply sit back and relax.

Real life, unfortunately, is a little more complicated, and if you’ve ever rounded a blind turn with the cruise control set to 110km/h, only to find yourself charging into a herd of slow-moving, or stationary, cars, you’ll know the heart-pounding panic that comes with desperately searching for the brake pedal. 

Likewise, when a car to your left attempts a Frogger-style lane change, despite travelling 30km/h slower than you, a cruise control system that’s got you locked to a particular speed goes from handy to hazardous in a hurry.

An adaptive cruise control system, also known as active cruise control, helps mitigate those risks by automatically adapting to changing traffic conditions, slowing down or speeding up with traffic as needed.

Way back in 1992 (the same year Australia’s one- and two-cent coins were withdrawn from circulation), Mitsubishi was putting the finishing touches on a world-first laser-based technology it dubbed its Distance Warning System.

The majority of systems are now radar-based, and constantly measure the road ahead for other cars.

While it was unable to control the throttle, brakes or steering, the system could identify vehicles ahead and alert the driver to begin braking. Rudimentary, sure, but it was the first baby step toward the adaptive cruise control systems used today.

By 1995, Mitsubishi had tweaked the system to begin slowing when it identified a car ahead, not by braking but by reducing the throttle and downshifting gears. But it was Mercedes who reached the next big breakthrough in 1999 when it introduced its radar-based Distronic cruise control. The German system could not only adjust the throttle to maintain a safe distance from the car in front, but could also apply the brakes if necessary.

The Distronic system was an auto-industry first, and was introduced on Mercedes’ traditional outlet for its newest technology: the then all-new (and circa-$200k) S-Class . So cutting edge was the system that even on its most expensive model, Distronic was an extra-cost option.

For the next decade, the technology was exclusive to the flagship models of premium marques, including BMW ’s Active Cruise Control, added to the 7 Series in 2000, and the Audi Adaptive Cruise Control system, introduced on the A8 in 2002.

But where the luxury brands go, everyone soon follows, and cars with adaptive cruise control are available from just about every manufacturer in Australia. And the technology is more accessible than ever before. The Volkswagen Adaptive Cruise Control system, for example, has been shared across its vast range of cars, with the technology now standard on the entry-level Skoda Octavia , yours from $22,990 (MSRP).

So just how does this marvel of modern technology work? The majority of systems are now radar-based, and constantly measure the road ahead for other cars. The driver (that’s you) then dials in not just their desired speed, but how big a gap you want to leave between you and the car ahead, which is usually measured in seconds.

The program will then maintain that gap, regardless whether the car ahead slows down, gets stuck in traffic or, on the better systems, stops all together. When the traffic ahead speeds up, so will you – topping out at your pre-determined top speed. And if a car should pull into your lane unexpectedly, your car will automatically brake, maintaining the same gap between the new car in front.

The speeds at which the system works, along with exactly what situations it will respond to, varies depending on the manufacturer, so have a good read of your owner’s manual before you fully invest your trust in it.

It’s impressive technology, but it’s not without its drawbacks, the biggest of which being that if you’re not paying attention, you can find yourself stuck behind a slow-moving car for endless kilometres as the system automatically adjusts its speed to maintain its distance, before you finally notice and overtake.

But that’s probably a small price to pay for a system that can save you from the unexpected.

How much do you depend on cruise control systems? Tell us what you think in the comments below.

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dynamic cruise control vs. adaptive cruise control

Discussion in ' Prime Technical Discussion ' started by rschlegel , Jul 16, 2019 .

  • adaptive cruise control
  • dynamic cruise


rschlegel Junior Member

How much better does the dynamic cruise control work on the new Prime vs. the adaptive cruise on the 2017 Prime? (adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({});  


Salamander_King Senior Member

Aren't they the same thing???  

jb in NE

jb in NE Senior Member

I believe they are, but perhaps somebody has owned one of each and can comment on any differences.  


NSXT Active Member

Honda Clarity ACC does more. It follows the car ahead to a fully stop. It will pick up the speed by itself from zero when it is moving again without you doing anything. I have tried in my Prime but I need to push the gas pedal to resume unless I was not patient enough. I read somewhere now DRCC has full speed for select model which can do the same as Honda ACC.  


mr88cet Senior Member

NSXT said: ↑ Honda Clarity ACC does more. It follows the car ahead to a fully stop. It will pick up the speed by itself from zero when it is moving again without you doing anything. I have tried in my Prime but I need to push the gas pedal to resume unless I was not patient enough. I read somewhere now DRCC has full speed for select model which can do the same as Honda ACC. Click to expand...


CharlesH CA HOV Decal #5 on former PiP

You can also briefly lift the cruise control stalk (as if you wanted to increase the cruise control set speed), to get going again.  

Tideland Prius

Tideland Prius Moderator of the North Staff Member

It’s the same thing. All Primes have full speed radar cruise control (so it goes down to 0). Adaptive cruise control is the umbrella or generic name for this feature. Each company has their own name.  
Tideland Prius said: ↑ Adaptive cruise control is the umbrella or generic name for this feature. Each company has their own name. Click to expand...
mr88cet said: ↑ To me, that just sounds like two companies choosing different acronyms, and slightly different feature sets, for what is fundamentally the same capability. So, if Toyota were to remove the requirement that we tap the gas after DRCC has taken the car to a stop, there wouldn’t likely change the name of that feature to ACC. I presume that Toyota requires us to tap the gas as a perceived safety measure. That is, to protect against it crashing into the car ahead in the event that its radar somehow loses the car in from of it (which I have seen it do, strangely!). Click to expand...


Like AEB... there's PCS, PRE-SAFE, CMBS, FCW  


PearlBlizzard Member

Just wanted to chime in that although the cruise control will slow the vehicle to a stop, it does so at the very last moment akin to an emergency stop when the driver is not putting on the brakes. Even when at the furthest distance setting, it fails to read the cars ahead speed. It will often accelerate in an attempt to bring the car to cruise speed, then brake heavy to slow down. Complete fail from Toyota. This speed and stop and speed and stop process contributes to greater traffic.  
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    An adaptive cruise control system, also known as active cruise control, helps mitigate those risks by automatically adapting to changing traffic conditions, slowing down or speeding up with traffic as needed. Way back in 1992 (the same year Australia's one- and two-cent coins were withdrawn from circulation), Mitsubishi was putting the ...

  19. What Is Adaptive Cruise Control?

    By Scott Hinderer 04/19/2023 12:04pm. Adaptive cruise control is an advanced form of cruise control that can increase or slow vehicle speeds to maintain a programmed distance from the car ahead ...

  20. dynamic cruise control vs. adaptive cruise control

    Adaptive cruise control is the umbrella or generic name for this feature. Each company has their own name. Yes, "Adaptive Cruise Control" is what we called it at my previous company, where we sold microcontrollers that Bosch, Continental, etc. used to implement such systems. #8 mr88cet, Jul 17, 2019.

  21. X3 Dynamic cruise control vs Adaptive Cruise control? (US version

    I've used ACC on the X3, and it's awesome in stop-and-go traffic. I only have to lightly tap the accelerator (or press a button) if the car comes to a complete stop. So I am struggling to find information on ACC while building my X3 online. All I could find is a standard Dynamic CC and no options or packages to….