In the 2004 movie iRobot, Will Smith has a car which is able to lock onto the road and react to almost any situation, while he travels around the futuristic city. That wasn’t such a far-fetched idea because, in the modern world of automotive engineering, that’s exactly what’s being research, developed and implemented. Cruise control is a way to normalise regular, and long highway journeys and adaptive cruise control further this concept.
Manufacturers wanted to limit road fatalities of their customers who were preoccupied, distracting their attention from the road. Cruise control is essentially a system which regulates a car’s speed without the need for the driver to keep in contact with the accelerator pedal. Adaptive cruise control is one step closer to autonomous vehicles because as the term suggests, it reacts to situations which present themselves without the need for driver intervention.
Image by – U.S. D.o.T
The concept of ACC
The first appearance of adaptive cruise control, came out of Japan in the early 1990s, although this system was purely designed to warn the driver that vehicles ahead were slowing down. There was no way in which it could control the throttle, increasing or decreasing the speed. However, now, with vehicles which have ACC, you set the speed you want to travel at, and with the new technology of radars, and laser sensors, the system will maintain a safe distance away from the vehicle in front. If a car in front slows down, your car slows down effectively to not encroach on the distance you’ve set, and then speeds up when the car in front increase the gap; however only up to the set speed. To deactivate ACC, simply press a button to regain control of your throttle pedal. The modern safety concerns come from how will future systems react to a driver taking control of the steering wheel, throttle and brake while the software is in full flow.
Photo – Foundry
It can be fooled
Many cars on the road are having ACC fit as standard or optional and replacing standard cruise control, which requires the driver to keep their foot on the gas. However, sensors which react to the actions of the car in front, can be blinded, by something as simple as the bad weather. Electronics can be slow to react, and software and hardware are being updates, improved but still in relative infancy. This is especially the case for sudden changes, for example, if a vehicle in front of you crashes or stamps on the brakes, computers are known to dither and not being able to react in time. It’s best to consult a personal Injury lawyer if you feel you’re at risk or have been involved in such an incident. They will fight diligently for you, even against large companies that have the money to dismay the average person from challenging their malfunctioning technology. When changing speed, systems are known to jerk and destabilise the car, even when there’s nobody in front of you, and the car is traveling in a straight line.
A concept that’s still a concept
Although there are some manufacturers that are creating cutting edge ACC systems like in the Rolls Royce Wraith, and Mercedes S-Class, nothing is for certain. A top of the range, Tesla vehicle recently was testing this kind of software called Tesla Autopilot, and allegedly due to a combination of driver failure and system inadequacy, the car crashed killing the test operator inside.