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A Guide to Understanding Cruise Control for Students in Auto Repair Training

Published on November 29, 2018 by in Blog, CATI

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Cruise control is a system for automatically maintaining a car’s speed at a set value. For long drives on straight roads, without too many other drivers around, it can be incredibly useful. Instead of continually monitoring and making fine adjustments to their speed, a driver can simply concentrate on steering, and allow cruise control to keep them moving at the desired kilometres-per-hour.

Although some version of cruise control can be found on vehicles as far back as the Wilson-Pilcher in 1900, the modern system of cruise control dates back to 1948, when it was invented by the mechanical engineer Ralph Teetor. Since then, the system has become commonplace, particularly on American cars. Here’s a little more information for those interested!

What Students in Auto Repair Training Should Know About Cruise Control

Cruise control systems can vary depending on the vehicle, but there are many common features they share. All systems feature an on/off switch, although switching it on will not actually engage cruise control. To do this, a driver needs to actually set their desired speed, usually by hitting a button or moving a stalk. Once set, cruise control will maintain the car’s current speed. The driver can also adjust that set speed, usually with buttons which can raise or lower it in 1 km/h increments.

Touching the brake pedal will generally disengage the cruise control system, though not turn it off. By tapping a “resume” button, drivers can reengage the system at the last set speed.

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Cruise control is usually operated via buttons on the steering wheel or a stalk beside it

Cruise Control Uses an On-Board Computer to Maintain a Set Speed

A car’s cruise control system manages a car’s speed in essentially the same way a driver does: by adjusting the throttle. When cruise control is engaged, however, the throttle valve is controlled not by the usual cable connected to the gas pedal, but by a second cable connected to an actuator controlled by an on-board computer. This computer takes in signals relating to a car’s current speed and uses these to continually adjust the throttle and maintain the desired speed.

One thing that students in auto repair school should know is that these cruise control systems cannot control a car’s braking system, and so downhill grades can be an issue, as the vehicle may not be able to slow itself down if it exceeds the desired speed.

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Cruise control is best suited for particularly long and straight stretches of road

Adaptive Cruise Control Can Keep a Set Distance with the Vehicle Ahead

Students in automotive college are also likely to run into adaptive cruise control when working on newer cars. Adaptive cruise control is an intelligent form of cruise control that can adjust a vehicle’s speed to keep pace with the car in front of it.

As with regular cruise control, a driver sets the maximum speed for the vehicle to maintain. Adaptive cruise control, however, not only measures the current speed of the car, but also uses radar sensors to track the distance between it and the next car ahead. It uses this information to keep a constant distance from the car in front, making it significantly more useful for situations with other drivers on the road.

Unlike regular cruise control, these systems can usually access the brake system as necessary, and may have additional features depending on the model, such as dynamic set speed, which uses GPS and a database to automatically match the legal speed limit.

Are you interested in becoming an automotive mechanic?

Contact CATI for more information about our auto repair training program.

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