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Adaptive Cruise Control Is the Best Car Feature

If you live anywhere with traffic, which is pretty much anywhere urban or suburban, I highly recommend getting your next car with adaptive cruise control. I live in an urban area, and I have adaptive cruise control, and I simply can’t go back.

So here’s the basic overview. Adaptive cruise control works like regular cruise control, except it speeds up and slows down based on the actions of the car in front of you. The good adaptive cruise control systems will go all the way down to a complete stop, and the really good ones will restart again after a stop — so, for instance, if you’re in stop-and-go traffic, you can let the adaptive cruise do the accelerating and braking without ever touching the pedals, even if you occasionally come to a full stop.

For someone who sits in traffic a lot, this is a lifesaver. Although I personally work from home, I spend about a third of my days driving all over Southern California to film videos — and sometimes I have 3- or 4-hour drives to get to where I’m going, and another 3 or 4 hours to get home. It’s a lot of time in the car — but adaptive cruise makes it completely bearable.

Now, adaptive cruise can be used in light traffic, at normal freeway speeds: it’ll accelerate up to the speed where you set it, and then stop there unless it senses slower traffic, at which point it’ll slow down. Should that slower traffic move, adaptive cruise will go back up to the speed ceiling where you set it. It works fine, but I find that it doesn’t get close enough to the car in front of you, meaning other drivers will just cut you off.

But in bumper-to-bumper traffic, it’s brilliant. Where you once had to get on the accelerator, then off, then on the brake, then off, then back to the accelerator, then back to the brake, now, suddenly, you have a feature that’ll do it for you. I’ve driven literally thousands of miles with my Mercedes-Benz’s adaptive cruise control system engaged, and I’ve never seen any sort of uncontrollable failure or questionable response to the road. 

But adaptive cruise control isn’t only offered on luxury cars, though that used to be the case. Today you can get the feature on new cars in a variety of prices from Chrysler, Honda, Kia, Toyota and many others. Even used cars will have the feature too if you look carefully. Many Jaguar and Infiniti vehicles, and even the Toyota Sienna had the option of adaptive cruise control as far back as 10 years ago.

It’s a great system, and it really helps with traffic — and at the end of a long drive through heavy traffic, you no longer feel exhausted, but rather surprisingly OK, since your car did most of the work for you, and all you had to do was steer. Steering is easy, especially at low speeds — and especially when someone (or, in this case something) else is doing the footwork.

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  1. My 2005 Cadillac XLR had this. Super ahead of its time. Very reliable.
    Bummer GM didn’t include it on the C7- they claim it added “too much weight”.

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Doug Demuro
Doug Demuro
Doug DeMuro writes articles and makes videos, mainly about cars. Doug was born in Denver, Colorado, and received an economics degree from Emory University in Atlanta. After graduation, Doug spent three years working for Porsche Cars North America. Eventually, he quit his job to become a writer, largely because it meant that he no longer had to wear pants. Doug’s work has been featured in a... Read More about Doug Demuro

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