Adaptive cruise control (ACC) is a tool that many drivers utilize today when driving on highways across the country, but according to a new study from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), some drivers are misusing the tool as a way to speed.
The IIHS study reports that drivers are substantially more likely to speed, whether using full adaptive cruise control or partial automation combined with lane centering. When drivers set a speed it’s typically over the speed limit, which in turn increases the driver's risk of being involved in a car accident.
“ACC does have some safety benefits, but it’s important to consider how drivers might cancel out these benefits by misusing the system,” said IIHS Statistician Sam Monfort, lead author of the report. “Speed at impact is among the most important factors in whether or not a crash turns out to be fatal.”
Benefits of adaptive cruise control
Compared to traditional cruise control, ACC is more advanced. It utilizes sensors to calculate and maintain a preselected following distance from the vehicle ahead, which eliminates the need for a driver to hit the brakes to reset the cruise control.
Although there's a high potential of drivers misusing the technology, an analysis of insurance claims data by Highway Loss Data Institute also found that utilizing an ACC may lower crash risk.
Meanwhile, other studies have shown that the default settings of an ACC have a greater following distance compared to human drivers, while also revealing that the technology reduces the frequency of vehicles passing others as well as other lane changes.
Conclusions of the study
IIHS researchers analyzed the behavior of 40 drivers from the Boston metro area during a four-week period. They collected data via the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Advanced Vehicle Technology Consortium. All of the drivers were provided vehicles equipped with ACC.
When the data was analyzed it showed that drivers were 24% more likely to drive over the speed limit on limited-access highways when using ACC. The speed at which ACC test participants were driving was also greater compared to individuals driving manually.
Both manual drivers and ACC drivers exceeded the speed limit by the largest margin within a 55 mph limit. In 60 and 65 mph zones, the ACC drivers averaged going 8 mph over the limit while the manual drivers went 5 mph over the limit. ACC and Pilot Assist drivers also averaged 1 mph higher in the slowest zones compared to manual drivers.
One mile more per hour might not seem like it makes much of a difference, but the study found that ACC or partial automation drivers are about 10% more at risk for a fatal crash due to the increase in speed.
“Driving faster is more dangerous,” Monfort said. “You can’t argue with physics.”
The study’s findings are based on a wide range of data. Future research is also needed to fully understand whether the benefits of ACC and other driving assistance technology outweigh potential risks.
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