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Smart Cruise Control


At the CES show, both major mapping companies (Navteq and Tele Atlas) have discussed how new features in their maps can help cruise control systems in your car, a clear hint at future products to come. So what is “Smart Cruise Control” and why would you want it?

When it can be used safely, I love cruise control. What I don’t like is that it can’t predict just how much throttle you need in certain situations. On a highway near my home there is a short steep hill to climb followed by a long gradual downhill. The problem is that just as my car is about to reach the top of the hill it will downshift to get into a better gear and step on the throttle a bit more to maintain speed as the car nears the top of the hill.

That would be fine if the hill continued, but just as the car accelerates it crosses the top of the hill and starts going down the other side– quite rapidly, often causing me to be going about 7mph faster than the cruise control is set for.

The Map

Using topographic type features in maps, along with a link directly to the car’s brain, that might not have to happen in the future. The car could “see” that I was just about to cross the hill and not step on the gas quite so much, unnecessarily. Tele Atlas calls this “Adaptive Cruise Control” and Navteq calls it “Predictive Cruise Control”.

This system would require a deep, personal conversation between the GPS location, the map, and your car. So don’t expect to see this technology by the end of the week. (So far as I know anyway.) The same goes for similar technologies like rotating your headlights just a bit as you start to go around a corner.

Other Mapping Tech

But there are other technologies that can take better advantage of the map database to enhance your driving experience today. The GPS knows how fast you are going and it knows the general curvature of the road ahead. We’re probably not too far away from seeing PNDs which can give you a warning that you are going too fast for the curve ahead– and this type of system wouldn’t need a hookup with the car.

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