April 14, 2024

Does Adaptive Cruise Control Make Roads More Dangerous?

Adaptive cruise control (ACC) is one of the most popular options for new car buyers, but a recent study from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) reveals that this seemingly useful device increases the likelihood of a collision. Adaptive cruise control is often marketed as a safety and entertainment technology that can reduce the crash probability and add leisure to your daily drive. ACC is a step above standard cruise control in that it allows the driver to select the desired speed and the desired distance from other vehicles when on the highway. Some ACC systems even include cameras and sensors to monitor the speed limit and other road conditions. When properly configured, ACC will automatically slow the vehicle down if the car in front of it is approaching too closely and will subsequently increase speed if the gap between cars widens. 


Problems With ACC


One problem with ACC is that drivers place far too much trust and responsibility in its operation. Adaptive cruise control requires constant monitoring when used due to its inability to manage some regular road features and driving circumstances. As such, most drivers fail to supervise the system adequately. On top of that, if the speed limit changes, the driver must manually adjust adaptive cruise control. Since there is no restriction for how fast you can set your vehicle speed, many in the auto industry are convinced ACC can lead drivers to set speeds higher than the legal limit.


Study Specifications 


The IIHS conducted a month-long experiment with 40 drivers in the Boston metro area to see if ACC enhanced or decreased driver safety, using data from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Advanced Vehicle Technology Consortium. The IIHS equipped drivers in the study with either a 2016 Land Rover Evoque or a 2017 Volvo S90 to assure generalizability. According to their findings, drivers are 24 percent more likely to speed when adaptive cruise control is set on. Furthermore, drivers with ACC turned on exceeded the speed limit by a greater margin than drivers with ACC turned off, implying that drivers with ACC are more likely to speed and drive dangerously. Ultimately, the IIHS study found that drivers who have an ACC system in their car have a 10% increased chance of a fatal collision, according to a common technique for assessing probable crash outcomes.


The IIHS report admits that their research isn’t perfect as researchers did not consider many other factors demonstrated to lessen collision frequency. The study did not look at real-world crashes or consider the likelihood that drivers who increased their car’s speed with ACC also increased the space between themselves and the vehicle in front of them.


Other Issues with ACC


Aside from the fact that ACC increases the probability of speeding, adaptive cruise control can also lead to negligence if drivers are too trusting of the technology. “This is especially true when roads are wet or icy, braking and acceleration could cause tires to skid dangerously out of control. Drivers should not use cruise control in these conditions,” says Attorney Matthew Aulsbrook. Even though some ACC systems include stop-and-go and blind-spot monitor technology, these systems are not always reliable. Sometimes at multi-lane stoplights, the blind-spot monitor is engaged by accident, scaring the driver and even resulting in a crash. Stop-and-go technology has also shown to be inconsistent at times, slamming the brakes when a passing vehicle veers too close to the center of the road. Finally, adaptive cruise control can make drivers overconfident, leading them to put their lives in the hands of the technology, even turning off other safety systems they believe are superfluous.