In Europe, buyers of the 2012 Ford Focus can equip their cars with adaptive cruise control. Once found exclusively on luxury cars, the technology has decreased in cost to the point where offering it on mainstream C-segment vehicles can be done profitably.
That’s not to say that all adaptive cruise control systems are alike. Systems on higher–end cars (such as those manufactured by Jaguar or Mercedes-Benz) come equipped with two long-beam radar arrays, as compared to one array on the system used in the Focus. The primary difference, aside from cost savings, is that twin-array systems can stop a car automatically as well as maintaining distance. The Focus’ adaptive cruise control can’t stop the car, but it will notify the driver and pre-charge the brakes if it senses a pending collision.
If Ford’s Focus is a global platform, then it stands to reason that we’ll be getting adaptive cruise control on this side of the pond, too. That may be true, but don’t expect it as an option on U.S. market cars any time soon. The primary reason has to do with insurance company validation of the technology: in the E.U., insurance companies recognize adaptive cruise control as a legitimate technology, and offer substantial discounts for cars equipped with it. In the U.S., insurance companies are still evaluating the technology to verify that it really does reduce accident rates.
There’s a perception issue to overcome as well. In Europe, the Ford Focus is seen as an upscale family car. In the United States, the Focus is viewed as compact, affordable transportation. Europeans expect the car to come with cutting edge technology, while Americans expect the car to come with a low price. For now at least, you can’t have both on this side of the Atlantic.