To Cruise or not to Cruise?

To Cruise or not to Cruise?

Cruise control can help to improve fuel efficiency by maintaining the same speed and can also reduce the chances of a driver speeding inadvertently.

However, it can be dangerous if drivers do not know how to use it correctly and when to use it.

Fatigue is frequently cited in many accident investigation reports as a contributing factor in vehicle crashes, often due to lack of rest stops or inadequate sleep. The use of cruise control may be adding to the effects of driver fatigue resulting in reduced vehicle control.

Reduced situational awareness while using Cruise control.

Independent studies in the USA and France evaluated the impact of the use of cruise control on driving behaviours. The Vinci Autoroutes in France, in conjunction with the University of Strasbourg, evaluated the effect of conventional cruise control on driver behaviours. The Federal Highway Administration in the United States conducted a human factors study on the use of adaptive cruise control. shown to the right. These studies concluded that the use of these types of cruise control systems significantly increased reaction times and decreased situational awareness relating to;

  1. Delayed perception of an event
  2. Delayed processing and interpreting the event
  3. Delayed selection of the response
  4. Delayed decision to take action
  5. Delayed initiation of the response

Conventional Cruise Control

The original design of conventional cruise control systems provided the driver with the ability to maintain a static speed for the vehicle under all operating conditions up to the vehicle’s capabilities. The driver must intervene when road, traffic or weather conditions change and determine when it is safe to use or disengage the system.

Conventional cruise control systems have been in place on commercial motor vehicles for more than 40 years, and during this time, governments and public safety organizations continue to investigate the risks and benefits of using these systems.

Adaptive Cruise Control

The next generation of cruise control is the adaptive cruise control which, under normal operating conditions can slow the vehicle or warn the driver of an encroachment into the space cushion ahead.

This system provides one level of warning; however, the driver must still decide when conditions change for the road, traffic or weather and determine when it is safe to use the system.

The Federal Highway Administration Human Factors Analysis study in 2013 evaluated the effects of using the more advanced type of cruise control, known as “Adaptive Cruise Control,” on reaction time and situational awareness when driving. Adaptive Cruise Control was expected to enable drivers to spend more time observing for driving hazards, however the study concluded that situational awareness and rapid response deteriorated due to drivers taking on additional non-driving related tasks inside the vehicle.

Pros of Using Cruise Control

  • Reduced strain on the right leg
  • More consistent speed control and less likely to inadvertently drive above the speed limit
  • Less speed fluctuation improves fuel mileage

Cons of Using Cruise Control

  • Reduced situational awareness
  • Decrease in EEMG brain wave activity
  • Increased driver fatigue
  • Reduction in eye movement
  • Increase in distracted driving
  • Reduced reaction time
  • Increased stopping distances
  • Reduced directional control
  • Reduced space cushion
  • Increased risk of hydroplaning on wet pavement or snow/ice
  • Speed modulation ability is reduced

Adaptive Cruise Control decreases situational awareness and response times due to drivers taking on additional non-driving related tasks inside the vehicle.

Source June 2016 White Paper on Cruise Control by Michael Davis CSP, ARM. Senior Vice President Risk Control Services.