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Welcome to radar-based cruise control

Cruise control is a great convenience on long highway trips: Set the speed and take your foot off the throttle.

Cruise control is a great convenience on long highway trips: Set the speed and take your foot off the throttle.

Several automakers now take that a step further, including Infiniti, which offers “intelligent” cruise control on several of its models.

In addition to its own speed, intelligent cruise control (ICC) monitors vehicles in front, slowing down or speeding up as necessary to maintain a preset distance from them.

“It’s radar-based,” says Robert Karwel, sales planning analyst for Infiniti Canada. “There’s a little clear plastic area in the lower grille mesh that’s the ICC radar module. When the system’s turned on, it’s constantly sending out a signal.

“The signal goes to the vehicle’s engine control module, which processes the signal from the radar.

“The signal bounces back to tell whether it’s closing on the vehicle in front of it or the gap is increasing. The ICC will either start to brake the car if you’re getting too close, or if you’re below your set cruise speed it will accelerate the car.”

The ICC can be set to a specific speed, in which case the Infiniti will maintain that top limit providing there is no vehicle in front that is going slower.

It can also be set to maintain a specific distance from a car in front, “so that if the car ahead is doing 100 but accelerates to 120, your car will accelerate to maintain the gap,” Karwel says.

“If the car ahead jams on the brakes, the ICC has the ability to apply up to 25 percent of the vehicle’s braking system. It will warn the driver to take action. It’s a collision avoidance program, but the driver still has to maintain alertness.”

The system has one more trick up its sleeve: since the radar beam is focused straight ahead, “our engineers found that going around a sharp turn in the highway, the beam can lose contact with the car in front,” Karwel says.

“But the (Infiniti) knows that it’s going around a corner, based on route information from its navigation system, and it will keep its speed up to the point where it lost contact. It goes around the corner and when the radar regains contact, it once again returns to distance control, whether or not the navigation system is turned on or off.”

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