For those who like to take road trips, or especially for those who view them as more of a chore, the technology advancements, like adaptive cruise control, that are coming out on mid-priced cars today are quite the blessing.
The Holiday Road Trip
Thanksgiving is when many people hit the road to visit family. In our case, my mother and I drove to South Carolina to visit my aunt and uncle. It is a long day’s drive, about 12.5 hours in one stretch, or stop overnight on I-81 in Virginia to make it two shorter drives. We did both.
On this trip, we were fortunate to make it in my mom’s new 2018 Ford Escape SEL, which she purchased in July. On the way down I did all the driving, as we broke it up into two shorter drives with a stop overnight. Once we got past Baltimore, I put the cruise control on.
I’m an old hand at cruise control. I have taken many road trips, including a couple in my current 2017 Ford C-Max Energi Platinum. I’m accustomed to having to use the buttons to cancel and resume with the flow of traffic. Sometimes it’s just too inconvenient to use the cruise control in heavier, but moving traffic. Indeed, at a certain point it goes from inconvenient to dangerous.
I was mindful of this, as I was driving along I-70 towards Frederick, Maryland, and then down rural US-340 cutting the corner of West Virginia, eventually onto heavily-trafficked I-81 in Virginia. I thought at first there was something wrong with the cruise control, as it would occasionally not keep to the set speed.
Then at one point the car slowed dramatically and I then exclaimed to my mom, “This car has adaptive cruise control!” I had heard about adaptive cruise control, of course; it’s been around for years on more expensive cars. And many of us have read about semi-autonomous and fully-autonomous driving technologies that they’ve been working on. But I was surprised to see it on a mid-priced vehicle like the Escape, especially when my car, a model year earlier and the highest feature level, didn’t have it.
Adaptive Cruise is Easy to Use
After coming to this realization, I relaxed and let the adaptive cruise control do its work. I noticed the dashboard had an indicator on it that would show the distance to a vehicle ahead of it. The heavy traffic on I-81 was a great test for this system, and it shined. It kept me about 3-4 car lengths behind the vehicle ahead, and would automatically slow the vehicle to keep with traffic.
I had the car set to the 70 mph speed limit in Virginia. If necessary, the car would apply the brakes or accelerate with alacrity to drive at a safe speed or the set speed, whichever was lower. At one point traffic on the road slowed dramatically as a closure forced traffic into one lane. The cruise control slowed the vehicle all the way down to 20 mph. At that point the system chimed and flashed a message stating it was canceling itself. I took control, and as soon as two lanes opened, I pressed the resume button. Unlike every other cruise control system I’ve had, which would accelerate sluggishly (if at all), this one accelerated quickly to the 70 mph set speed.
In the mountainous terrain of eastern Tennessee and western North Carolina, the adaptive cruise control also worked very well. It downshifted automatically on downgrades to keep the set speed, and accelerated well on the upgrades.
Adaptive Cruise is for Everyone!
The best part of all was on the way back, when my mom took the wheel for a few hours on our marathon 12.5 hour drive home. She almost never uses cruise control because she normally doesn’t drive long enough to warrant it. So I explained the basics to her and advised her, just keep your hands on the wheel and let the car do the work of braking and accelerating. After a few minutes she was also very pleased with the system, as it allowed her to rest her feet.
For people like my mother, the chore of long drives is usually handled by letting people like me do the driving. But it’s nice to know that when I need to give it a rest, she can take over and enjoy the drive as well.
Special thanks to Chris for taking some time out of his day to put this article together. Remember to check out our website, www.dovimotors.com to shop for all the latest Ford products. Also check out our post on SUV seating to decide which adaptive cruise enable vehicle is right for you!