Recently I was traveling out of town and rented a car. Actually, I was gone twice, and I wanted to compare cruise control in the rental with Tesla’s Traffic Aware Cruise Control (TACC). I’ll do two cars in this post: a 2021 Ford Explorer and a 2018/2019 Chrysler 300.
This is part of a series that covers my experience with a Tesla Model Y.
The Ford Explorer
My wife really liked the Explorer. We rented one a few years ago and she really enjoyed it, so when I went to New York, with a 2 1/2 drive to see my daughter, I grabbed a Limited, 2021 version.
This had adaptive cruise control, which watches the car in front of you and tries to match the speed of it. The cruise felt clunky. You press a button to enable it, then a toggle will raise of lower the limit. Getting this up or down was clunky, pressing it multiple times. I was often on roads where the speed changed quickly from 55 to 45 to 30, and I could hold down the toggle, or click it. For 55 to 45, I wasn’t sure which was better as I sometime held it too long and got to 40.
I didn’t see how to change following distance. That was something I’d want to do when I’m following a large dump truck with gravel. Don’t want to be too close.
However, this slows smoothly and speeds up quickly. At least compared to the Tesla. However, it’s not perfect.
There was a stretch of road that bended to the right (US, right side drive). A car in front of my slipped into the left lane for a left turn, so as I came up on the turn, I was heading straight towards the car. The road would lead me past, but the car started to emergency slow, and I had to press the accelerator to keep going and not have cars behind me stack up.
A linear view of the world works well for cruise control in many situations but not all.
Tesla gives you Traffic Aware Cruise Control as a part of the basic package. This is easy to use, but not great.
Enabling this is easy, pulling down on the right stalk once (twice is Autosteer). This set the car at the current speed plus whatever offset you’ve configured. If I want to change following distance, the right scroll wheel on the steering wheel can be clicked left or right to change the number of car lengths.
However, cruise can be annoying. The acceleration is slow. Most cars pull away substantially quicker at any speed and the Tesla is slow to catch up. It also can be slow to recognize cars in front of me and gets a little too close at times (for my comfort) before slowing.
It lags, which isn’t comforting.
However, the situations on turns aren’t a problem. At least fairly rarely. The Tesla recognizes another lane and keeps cruising. There is some phantom braking, but not a lot. It’s definitely gotten better in a year.
Perhaps the part that I really don’t like is the Tesla reads speed limit signs. At times, especially in CO, there are speed signs for the exits that are a little too close to the highway. They are yellow instead of white, but if I’m in the right lane, I’ve had the car think the highway is a 45 all of a sudden and brake. Or think it’s a 55 on a 65mph road.
That I don’t like.
Basic Chrysler Cruise
This is like my BMW X5. It sets a speed and follows it. Doesn’t slow down and will hit a car in front of you.
I hate this now.
I rarely used it in Hawaii because of the lack of watching cars in front and there being plenty of traffic. I needed to focus more, so I decided this wasn’t helpful. Also, not a lot of hills in Hawaii, which is where I appreciate it more.
I do use this in my BMW, but usually only when I’m on rural roads with no traffic. In Hawaii, it felt old and less useful. I definitely don’t like the old style cruise control in traffic.
I like the Tesla idea, but the execution is poor. If the car sped up quicker and slowed down quicker (using radar to measure distance), I could live with the occasional slow down for a speed limit sign. However, the lag is frustrating to me, and other drives, so it’s less useful than I’d like.
I felt the Adaptive on the Ford worked well enough that it was a smooth drive, other than a few sweeping turn slowdowns.