Skip to main content

You likely know about cruise control if you’ve shopped for a car in the last few years. This feature is a precursor to self-driving car technology as it allows the vehicle to maintain its speed on the highway. With it, buyers don’t have to keep revving the engine or brake as much to maintain a constant speed. It also seems to have some unintended consequences with gas-powered cars that come with the feature offering better fuel efficiency.

Of course, with the electrification of the car industry being in full force, one has to wonder whether the same applies to EVs.

What is cruise control, and how does it work?

A cruise control panel in a car.
Cruise control | Getty Images

Cruise control in its basic form is a system that can control vehicle speed and keep it constant. Typically the system includes an actuator that controls the throttle system once activated.

According to Kia, the cruise control system in older cars uses cables to keep the gas pedal in the same position once the driver sets the cruising speeds. These systems also require the driver to manually bring the car to the desired speed before pressing a button to activate cruise control. That said, they rarely work for speeds under 25 mph.  

Also, they’re built to automatically turn off when you depress the brake, clutch, or acceleration pedal. Additionally, a resume function is included so that when you let go of the pedal, the vehicle either accelerates or decelerates back to the pre-set speed. However, you can also use the off button if you don’t want to revert to the pre-set speed.

Modern vehicles also use a more advanced adaptive cruise control system. With it, the driver still gets to set the speed. However, the vehicle incorporates sensors to monitor the car in front and respond accordingly. According to Science ABC, some systems can decelerate and even stop your vehicle if necessary.

How does cruise control affect EV driving range?

Cruise control does indeed have similar advantages for EVs and gas-powered cars, where the reduced need to constantly accelerate and decelerate increases fuel efficiency. This in itself should result in improved driving range. There also seems to be an additional benefit in EVs that’s not often mentioned: they handle cruise control better than their internal combustion engine counterparts.

According to The Driven, activating the cruise control system in the Hyundai Kona electric turns off user settings and instead uses its automatic variable regenerative braking mode. This ability to automatically adjust regenerative braking levels gives them a significant advantage over gas-powered cars.

The next step in cruise control

As mentioned above, cruise control is a precursor to self-driving technology, with some automaker’s already rolling out their autonomous systems. Two of the most currently advanced systems include General Motor’s Super Cruise and Tesla’s Autopilot.

According to Chevrolet, the Super Cruise technology allows up to seven miles of hands-free driving. That said, it monitors the driver to ensure they keep their attention on the road just in case their input is required. This system also lets the driver select how far to keep from the car they’re following.

Next, it uses various sensors to keep vehicles centered in their lane, even on curvy roads. It’s worth mentioning that it only works on 200,000 miles of road in the U.S. and Canada and currently only works in a few models, e.g., the 2022 Cadillac Escalade.

Tesla‘s Autopilot also uses a myriad of sensors to give drivers a hands-free driving experience. Additionally, it’s capable of accelerating, braking, and even steering within its lane.

Nevertheless, the Tesla system is not without problems, with Car and Driver reporting it’s under NHTSA investigation. The investigation focuses on the technologies used to monitor and enforce driver engagement, with up to 830,000 models produced between 2014 and 2021 affected.


Are Self-Driving Cars Safe? Most Americans Don’t Think So