Driving characteristics and adaptive cruise control: A naturalistic driving study

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With the increasing number of vehicles equipped with Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC), it becomes important to assess its impact on traffic flow efficiency, in particular with respect to capacity and queue discharge rate. Simulation studies and surveys suggest that ACC has both positive and negative effects on traffic flow, but empirical evidence on this topic is scarce. A naturalistic driving study has been conducted with 8 participants who drove their own ACC-equipped vehicle during their regular trips on freeways for a period of 4 to 5 weeks. We measured spacing, headway, speed, acceleration, lane use, and the number of lane changes, and compared these between ACC On and ACC Off in different traffic states, for a total of 48 hours of driving data. Results show that with ACC On, average spacing and headways were larger, whereas standard deviations were smaller. Larger headways can be assumed to reduce capacity, whereas more constant spacing, headway, speed, and acceleration indicate more stable traffic. With ACC On, drivers performed 36% fewer lane changes in saturated traffic, resulting in increased use of either the faster or the slower lane, depending on the driver. Furthermore we found that headways were smaller with ACC On than ACC Off when only selecting accelerations below-0.5m/s2 and above 0.5m/s2, which is the opposite of the overall finding. The latter result suggests that ACC has an important limitation: a lack of anticipation. On the other hand, the smaller headways with ACC On during acceleration indicate an increased queue discharge rate.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to) 17-24
JournalIEEE Intelligent Transportation Systems Magazine
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Cameras
  • Cruise control
  • Discharges (electric)
  • Intelligent vehicles
  • Adaptation models
  • Stability analysis
  • Traffic control
  • Navigation

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