Adaptive Cruise Control - 2013 Cadillac ATS Long-Term Road Test

2013 Cadillac ATS Long Term Road Test

2013 Cadillac ATS: Adaptive Cruise Control

January 22, 2013

2013 Cadillac ATS

I've been reading a lot about self-driving cars lately and I learned that Cadillac is eager to get into the game with "super cruise control", which they say will come out soon. One component of that will be adaptive cruise control, which is part of the driver assistance package on our 2013 Cadillac ATS. So, until super cruise gets here, I thought I'd give the current adaptive cruise a test drive on the busy 405 freeway in West Los Angeles.

Out on the freeway, early afternoon traffic was heavy but still moving. Using steering wheel-mounted controls, I set the adaptive cruise control to 70 mph. However, the cars around me were only going about 55 mph. The radar sensors in the Cadillac monitor the car in front of me and matched its speed.

Suddenly, as so often happens in Los Angeles, another car swerved into the gap in front of me, practically grazing my front bumper. Before I could react, I felt the car's brakes slowing the Cadillac. I got an eerie sense that an unseen driver is looking over my shoulder and protecting me. The Caddy slowed and soon a comfortable gap between my car and the intruder was restored. When the driver in front pulled out of my lane my speed built again until I reached the 70 mph adaptive cruise control setting.

I decided to try to photograph the instrument panel during my test drive. The only problem was I was going 70 mph and my camera was in a bag on the passenger's seat. Being very careful to keep part of my vision on the road ahead I leaned over and began groping for the camera. But then it occurred to me that this was exactly how the technology in the driver assistance package helps. The adaptive cruise and braking systems wouldn't let me run into the car in front and cameras in Cadillac's lane departure warning system, which were watching the road markings, will tell me if I wander across the dotted line.

Reflecting on this, I realized that for my entire driving life, I've been staring at the bumper of the car in front of me. But with adaptive cruise control, the radar and cameras are watching traffic immediately ahead. This means I can broaden my view of the entire road, not just the car ahead.

Later in the test drive, I decided to test the system's ability to bring the car to a complete stop. I saw brake lights ahead as traffic came to a standstill. I hovered my foot over the brake pedal and waited to see what happened next. The active emergency braking system, which works with adaptive cruise control, sensed the stationary traffic ahead and began braking. Would it really stop in time? It's all I could do to keep my foot off the brake. But surely and steadily, the Cadillac came to a complete stop without my help. Then, when I pressed the brake, the adaptive cruise control cancelled and I was back in charge of the car.

These systems are a nice preview of what's to come in self-driving cars. Yes, I know that many people believe that these systems will just make us even more distracted. But I believe that they can be important tools. So as more cars crowd the freeways, driving at higher speeds, we need to take advantage of better technology to help us stay safe.

Philip Reed, Senior Consumer Advice Editor @ 3,520 miles


  • jederino jederino Posts:

    Nice - I do hope that this technology helps us as drivers, rather than making the commute home a time for catching up on emails and friendster.

  • bassracerx bassracerx Posts:

    i would rather an attentive AI then an inattentive driver. my only worry is that what happens if the driver is not able to take the helm in time if the AI malfunctions or people put too much faith into the system's ability (100mph in the rain) and how would liability work in an incident where the car could not avoid a collision on it's own (probably the driver couldn't either... but)

  • wizard8873 wizard8873 Posts:

    Watching the car directly infront of you is bad driving practice. I've always been taught and drove with the mindset of watching the furthest car that I can see while being mindful of the cars infront and around me. Nice technology and definitely great to have for long trips (I was once stuck in a base Cobalt rental without crusie control for 600 miles) but it's an aid, not something that should be relied upon.

  • fordsama fordsama Posts:

    Amazing technology that should help reduce some accidents.

  • duck87 duck87 Posts:

    Automakers would do well to be careful on how they apply this tech- it's not inconceivable that some unusual circumstance on the road will lead to a malfunction of the system (and ensuing crash/possible loss of life). We've already seen an odd example of this a few months back when an Infiniti SUV wouldn't cross a bridge without freaking out because of how the system perceived the bridge as an approaching object. Would the automakers be willing to accept the liability of taking responsibility completely out of the driver's hands?

  • fordson1 fordson1 Posts:

    Agree with other posters - you're not supposed to be staring at the bumper of the car in front of you. You are not supposed to require smart cruise control in order to keep your scan further up the road, where it's supposed to be. And you're not supposed to be groping through a camera bag in order to take photos of the IP while traveling at almost 60 mph. The system is capable of hitting the brakes if required, but you are not only capable of hitting the brakes, but of changing lanes or hitting the gas if you chose to allow a less-capable entity to take control of the vehicle while you futzed around with something not driving-related. That's irresponsible.

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