Cruise control: How it works, its uses and benefits

Sep 10, 2019 | Same topic: Technical car terms to know
One car feature that is helpful for drivers during long car rides is cruise control. To better understand what cruise control is, how it works and its benefits, keep reading.


Most modern cars are packed with different features that greatly help drivers. Cruise control is one of these. To better understand what cruise control is, how it works, and what its benefits are, read this article from

1. What is cruise control?

Cruise control is an essential feature in modern vehicles. Its purpose is to set the speed of the vehicle accurately without any intervention. The system controls the throttle-accelerator pedal linkage.

The initial variants of the cruise control can be traced back to even before automobiles were created. The mechanical engineer and inventor James Watt came up with a version in the 17th century to maintain the steam engine's steady speed up and down inclines. 

The cruise control that vehicles have today was invented in the late 1940s. This was a period when the concept of utilizing an electrically controlled device that can accordingly adjust the throttle and manipulate road speeds was conceived.

Cruise control in the steering wheel


A cruise control system keeps the set speed of the driver accurately, without any intervention

2. How the cruise control works

The system works by controlling the car's speed similar to how a driver does when he or she changes the throttle position. Cruise control uses a cable linked to an actuator to engage the throttle valve instead of pressing the pedal. The throttle valve is responsible for controlling the engine’s speed and power by limiting the amount of air intake.

Cruise control comes with cruise switches that drivers use to set the system. Commonly, the switches are “ON,” “OFF,” “SET or ACCEL,” “RESUME,” AND “COAST.” These switches are usually situated on the steering wheel or turn signal stalk. Below are the functions of each switch.

Cruise control buttons


Cruise control comes with cruise switches that drivers use to set and adjust the system

ON and OFF switch

Pressing the “ON” button does not do anything aside from telling the vehicle that you’re going to press another switch soon. The “OFF” button, on the other hand, turns off the cruise control if it is engaged.

There are cruise control systems that don't have these switches. Instead, the system turns off once the driver presses the brakes and turns on by pressing the SET switch.

SET/ACCEL switch

This button will signal the vehicle to maintain the current speed of the vehicle. If you press the SET button while driving at 45kph, the vehicle will stay on this speed. If you hold the SET/ACCEL button down, it will make the vehicle accelerate. When you tap it once, it will make it run faster by 1kph.

RESUME switch

If you accidentally disengaged the cruise control system by pressing the brake pedal, hitting the RESUME switch will command the vehicle to accelerate back to the most recent speed setting.

COAST switch

If you hold down this switch, it will command the vehicle to decelerate, the same way if you completely take off your foot from the accelerator pedal. If you tap it again, it will command the vehicle to slow down by one meter per hour.

Brake and clutch pedals

These two pedals can also serve as switches to disengage the cruise control system. If you press or lightly tap the brake or clutch pedal, it will shut the system off.

Brake and clutch pedal

The brake and clutch pedal can also serve as a switch to disengage the cruise control system

3. What is adaptive cruise control?

Adaptive cruise control is a more advanced system that can automatically adjust the speed of a car to keep a safe following distance. It uses forward-looking radar, mounted behind the car’s grille. This radar is used in detecting the distance and speed of the car in front.

Adpative cruise control


Adaptive cruise control automatically adjusts the speed of a car to keep a safe following distance

>>> Check out: Signs of failing cruise control and how to use it properly.

4. How adaptive cruise control works

Adaptive cruise control is the same as conventional cruise control as it maintains the car’s pre-set speed. The difference is that the advanced system automatically adjusts the vehicle’s speed, maintaining a proper distance between cars on the same lane. This is made possible by the longitudinal controller, digital signal processor, and radar headway sensor.

Once the car ahead reduces its speed or if another object is detected, the system will send a signal to the braking system or engine to decelerate. And once the road is clear, the adaptive cruise control will bring back the speed of the car to its original setting.

Adaptive cruise control


The advanced system automatically adjusts the car’s speed, maintaining a proper distance between cars on the same lane

Benefits of using cruise control

There are several reasons why cruise control is helpful for the driver. Here are some: 

Fuel efficiency

All car owners want their vehicles to operate efficiently. Cruise control greatly contributes to the fuel efficiency of a car because the system eliminates the margin of error that enables a car to run at constant speed thus increasing fuel economy.

Fuel efficiency is significantly reduced if the driver accelerates aggressively or constantly pumps the gas which usually happens when stuck in traffic or at traffic lights.

Driver comfort

Long drives require mental concentration, and it’s an advantage if drivers are in great shape, too. Driving can mean sitting in the same position for hours and constantly engaging the pedals, which is why most drivers feel sore and stiff.

Benefit of cruise control

Long drives require mental concentration, and it’s an advantage if drivers are in great shape

The good thing is, the cruise control system can mitigate that. When you engage it, the vehicle is maintained at a constant speed and you won't have to strain your legs too much. It enables you to simply steer your way to your destination. 

This benefit is mostly felt on long road trips. You can sit back and relax your right leg while steering the car.


Using cruise control will help you keep your vehicle at the prescribed speed limit which will eliminate any risk of incurring a fine due to traffic violations.

Cruise control is just one of the many car features designed to make driving more enhanced and simplified. If you plan to buy a vehicle, we suggest you opt for a car that is equipped with a cruise control system because it is a major advantage and it provides several benefits that make driving more fun and less tiring.

Source: Hanna Miel Sanchez