Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) as seen on top-end Mercs in Europe and on a variety of car brands in the US, is an ADAS, an Advanced Driver Assistance System, that has collision-avoidance as its main aim.
Auto industry bosses reckon the technology is set for huge market growth in the next five years, and it is estimated that 17 percent of European built vehicles will have some form of ACC by 2006.
"It is supposedly well suited for use as a safety feature on congested European roads, but will it recognise bicycles?," asks Olly Hatch of CPAG.
And if ACC isn't futuristic enough, the motorways of 20 years hence could be safer places, even though there's more traffic and average speeds will be higher. Reesearch by the US Department of Transportation's Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) Joint Program Office, and Japan's Advanced Cruise-Assist Highway System Research Association, may make driving a completely automated experience, says Spectrum Online.
"Communication among sensors and processors embedded not only in vehicles but in roads, signs, and guard rails are expected to let cars race along practically bumper to bumper at speeds above 100 km/h while passengers snooze, read, or watch television."
This all sounds rosy but, in effect, such technologies take away the need for driver input, something that many motorists would abhor. However, it's clear that urban speed limiters and ACC devices - if tuned to recognise cyclists and pedestrians - could dramatically slash road deaths.
Drivers of the future may be able to specify their destination but may not have control of their vehicles: a bit like being on a train, really. Expect fierce opposition from motorists who want the freedom to drive wherever they goddam please, at whatever speed they goddam please.