cruise control

Cruise Control: All you need to know for a relaxed cruise

Cruising on the highway with your family or friends is a fun experience we all crave from time to time. However, manually maintaining the speed of the car with the accelerator becomes tiring and uncomfortable over long distances. What becomes the need of the hour in such situations is cruise control. In India, cruise control as a feature is becoming more common on the higher end variants of cars and you might be wondering what is the function of this feature and whether it’s worth having in your car. To answer this, here is everything you need to know about cruise control.

Table of Contents

What is Cruise Control?

Cruise control button

The cruise control is a system that maintains the car speed set by the driver without requiring him to press the accelerator pedal. Moreover, it doesn’t let the car go above or below the set speed unless the driver presses the brake or accelerator pedal.

The function of cruise control is an automatic replication of the way a driver manually controls a vehicle’s speed. Early cruise control systems worked with a cable and an actuator to control the throttle valve. A throttle is a component in the engine in which the supply of the fuel and air is manipulated to control the speed of the vehicle. So, depending on the speed set by the driver, the system automatically adjusted the throttle position. 

Today’s modern cruise control systems have replaced the cable with various sensors connected to an ECU (Electronic Control Unit). When the driver sets a speed, the ECU computes the driver’s input to the throttle and then configures the throttle accordingly. The system invariably maintains the speed set by the driver and adjusts the throttle configuration for the set speed to remain unaltered by the changing road conditions.

How to use cruise control?

Cruise control function

Before activating the cruise control in a car, always check the weather conditions. Refrain from driving the car at cruising speeds when it’s raining as the low visibility and unpredictable road conditions make it unsafe to drive at cruise control speeds.

Nevertheless, the following steps will help you understand how to use the cruise control system in your car.

  • Step 1 – Accelerate the car to the speed you would like to set. Meanwhile, be mindful, and do not cross the speed limit of the road or highway.
  • Step 2 – Once the car reaches the desired speed, activate the cruise control by pressing its button which is either on or near the steering wheel. Remember to locate the button before deciding to activate cruise control.
  • Step 3 – Take your foot off the accelerator pedal as the car doesn’t need your input anymore to maintain a constant speed.
  • Step 4 – While driving, keep your eye on the road and be prepared to react to changing road conditions. You should be ready to push the brake in the event of an obstacle on the road.
  • Step 5 – If you want to accelerate, you can press the given ‘+’ (plus) button.
  • Step 6 – If you want to decelerate, you can press the given ‘-’ (minus) button.
  • Step 7 – If you even slightly press the brake pedal, the car should deactivate the cruise control.

The buttons to engage cruise control, accelerate, and decelerate vary from car to car. So, remember to check before getting behind the wheels.

Advantages of Cruise Control in a Car

Eases driving

The job of cruise control is to run a car at a constant speed without any input from the driver. The driver doesn’t need to keep the accelerator pedal pressed by his foot and can let it relax. The cruise control is mainly used on highways when it can be engaged for longer durations.

Increases mileage

If a car runs at a constant speed, then its engine also operates at constant RPMs (Revolution Per Minute). With fewer fluctuations in speed and RPM, fuel consumption is also controlled to a greater extent, helping to increase your car’s mileage on long highway journeys.

Helps you drive safely

On smooth highways which often look endlessly clear, people usually end up crossing the speed limit. With cruise control, you set your speed below the highway’s speed limit and travel safely.

Effortless control

To increase or decrease the speed of your car, you generally use the accelerator and brake pedal. While on the highway, you may want to adjust the speed to match the road conditions. A cruise control system’s speed can be controlled with buttons on your steering wheel, giving you adaptive control on the road. More expensive cars are also equipped with adaptive cruise control, where this operation is done automatically.

Ideal with automatic cars

Cruise control is ideal on automatic cars as the ECU takes care of shifting gears, should the speed decrease. This is evident on adaptive cruise control systems, where the car automatically increases and decreases the speed according to the traffic flow and the set speed. On manual cars, cruise control is best used when driving at the highest gear on clear stretches of road to get the most out of the system.

Disadvantages of Cruise Control in a Car

Limitations of Indian roads

The cruise control is a great feature and is mostly suited for wide, long, smooth, and clear (most important) highways. While India has a fantastic network of smooth highways all around, you may face many obstacles such as cattle, dogs, or any animal per se. Moreover, many people disregard the regulations and speed limits and jeopardize highway journeys.

Increases the reaction time when you need to be quick

Due to the obstacles mentioned above, there is a lot of uncertainty. You might need to press the brake pedal all of a sudden and you need to be ready for that. In case of emergency, you might take slightly more time to apply the brakes and avoid the accident.

It can lead to drowsiness

With activated cruise control, the car can remain at a constant speed for as long as you want. As the cruise control reduces your active involvement in driving, your alertness level may drop which eventually leads to drowsiness. It is highly recommended to disengage the cruise control every 10 to 15 minutes.

It doesn’t fit well with manual cars

Activating cruise control in a manual car will require you to shift the gears by yourself as the cruise control will handle only acceleration and deceleration. While it’s not a big inconvenience, it can be irritating sometimes to quickly slow down just to shift the gear, and then accelerate immediately. It sure is not a dealbreaker, but it deprives you of the full potential of cruise control.

Shouldn’t be used at night

Due to poor visibility, it’s strongly recommended not to use cruise control at night. Even a road that is exceptionally well-lit cannot simulate the visibility of daylight. Therefore, driving at a constant speed can be a huge safety concern.

Adaptive cruise control

Spinny Assured Mahindra XUV700

Adaptive cruise control is the latest technology and a vastly modernized form of cruise control. The adaptive cruise control automatically adjusts the car’s speed depending on the speed of the vehicle ahead. The premise of this technology is to ensure that the car maintains a safe distance from the vehicle ahead irrespective of the change in its speed. The adaptive cruise control is a very desirable perk on highways as well as on city roads. It is also a level 1 autonomous driving technology as it uses radar sensors to evaluate the difference in speed and distance from the car ahead. For instance, if the vehicle ahead of your car slows down or speeds up, with adaptive cruise control your car will reduce its speed or accelerate automatically. Adaptive cruise control is usually found in premium cars. However, now it has trickled down to some premium passenger cars such as the Mahindra XUV700, MG Gloster, MG Astor.

Adaptive cruise control vs Cruise control

Cruise Control

Adaptive Cruise Control

It maintains a constant speed without the driver's input.

It smarty fluctuates the speed of the vehicle to keep it at a safe distance from the vehicle ahead.

It uses various sensors to configure the throttle

It uses radars to evaluate the relative speed and distance gap.

It’s ideal for high-speed driving on highways

It comes immensely handy in city traffic, to keep your car at a safe distance from the cars ahead of it.

Available in most cars

Available mostly in high-end cars

Summary

While the cruise control is available in most cars, it is among the major attractions in variants it is equipped with. As already explained, cruise control comes with its pros and cons, so it is best to use it wisely. Hopefully, this article will help you thoroughly understand cruise control, and make a sound decision while choosing your next car.

FAQs about Cruise Control

What does cruise control do on a car?

The cruise control in a car automatically runs it at a constant speed set by the driver and doesn’t require the driver to press the accelerator pedal.

When should you use cruise control?

Remember, while using cruise control you must be able to see the road ahead as clearly and as far as possible. This is why cruise control is advisable to be used in broad daylight for its best visibility. Moreover, cruise control shouldn’t be used in rain and night for their poor visibility.

Is cruise control good for your car?

Cruise control has its pros and cons. While it reduces your effort considerably as you don’t need to keep your foot on the accelerator pedal, at the same time, you need to remain as alert as possible to the unpredictability of Indian roads, for example, cattle, stray animals, a novice driver who suddenly steered the wheel without checking the cars behind him, etc.

Can I install cruise control in my car?

The answer is both yes and no. You might be able to install an aftermarket cruise control kit, if it’s an old car since the electronics don’t control engine-related functions. However, installing a cruise control kit is almost impossible in modern cars for their complex electronic sensors. Moreover, if you try installing an aftermarket cruise control kit, you will breach the norms of the warranty offered by the OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer).

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