2013 Cadillac ATS: Adaptive Cruise Control
January 22, 2013
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