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Cruisin’ With Technology

While it may seem like magic, your car's cruise control is really just an amazing feat of engineering.

Close up view of a car's speedometer

Photo: AnxiousNut (flickr)

Modern cruise control was first created back in the late 1940s.

Ever wondered how cruise control works? Well, wonder no longer!

Your car’s throttle controls the speed of the car by regulating how much air and fuel get into the engine. With cruise control, however, rather than the driver pushing his foot on the pedal, it just happens automatically.

Cruise control uses something called an actuator to adjust the throttle and maintain speed. There’s a small computer under the hood or behind the dashboard that uses sensors to monitor the speed of the car, the speed you want to achieve and the throttle position.

If you’re going 50 miles per hour and set the cruise control for 60, the computer registers the current speed of the car and calculates how much it needs to open the throttle until you reach 60. If you’re going up a hill and the car starts to slow, the computer senses that and adjusts the throttle to maintain speed.

 

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