Sometimes referred to as speed control or autocruise, cruise control is a useful feature that is included on many vehicles. Essentially, it allows the driver to establish a specific speed for the vehicle to proceed, without the need to manually press the foot to the accelerator in order to maintain the desired speed. Many drivers consider this feature to be ideal for long periods of driving, especially on highways and other stretches of road that route through open areas.
The basis for cruise control actually predates the invention of the automobile. In 1788, Matthew Boulton and James Watt developed a speed control for steam engines. Meant for use on steamboats, this early device was known as a speedostat and was intended to help adjust the speed of the boat based on the amount of the load. Using the principle of centrifugal force to adjust the throttle of the boat, the device enjoyed a modest amount of success during the 19th century.
After the invention of the auto, several decades passed before any serious work was done on a cruise control feature. Ralph Teetor invented the first viable cruise control for autos in 1945. However, it would be over ten years before any car manufacturer would consider adding the feature to any vehicle. In 1958, Chrysler became the first auto manufacturer to offer it as a luxury feature on the Imperial. By the 1970’s, it was found on vehicles manufactured by every major make and model.
Like many features, cruise control has several advantages. Using it on long drives that involve stretches of distance where there is little to no population along the road makes it possible for the driver to enjoy the drive without any worries about cramps in the foot or calf. Another advantage is the higher rate of fuel efficiency that is achieved when using it. Speeders can also benefit from using a cruise control feature, since the controls can be set at the speed limit and avoid the potential to be pulled over for exceeding the speed limit.
There are several instances when this feature should not be utilized. Inclement weather conditions, such as snow and driving rain, are situations in which a driver must be prepared to respond immediately. Precious seconds that are required to deactivate cruise control and begin adjusting the speed of the car can be the difference between avoiding an accident or being seriously injured. Also, using it on roads that are characterized by terrain that rises and falls may lead to a drop in fuel efficiency. Along with these conditions on the open road, it is unwise to use cruise control in populated areas, such as cities or towns. In fact, many jurisdictions have established laws that make it illegal to use this feature within the city limits.