Adaptive cruise control is a pricey feature, offered on luxury models and a handful of other vehicles. So what's the likelihood of applications in mainstream and low-end vehicles?
Not much, considering that adaptive cruise control is likely to remain pricey, says Jim Hall, an analyst at AutoPacific in Southfield, Mich.
"The problem with it is just basic cost," he said. "It is not cheap."
Adaptive cruise is one of several high-end features that may not win widespread acceptance. Although its effectiveness has been proved, it probably will be limited to a few vehicle types because of cost or other reasons.
Adaptive cruise operates like a typical cruise control system. But when the system detects a slow-moving vehicle in the same lane in front of the driver, it slows the vehicle and in some applications applies moderate braking.
Adaptive cruise control is standard on some high-end luxury cars. BMW has offered the system since 2002; Mercedes since 2000.
The feature is a $2,200 option in the 2006 BMW 5 series, $1,000 on the 2006 Cadillac DTS and $600 on the 2007 Toyota Avalon XLS. Systems that are more precisely calibrated and immune to such elements as fog are more expensive.
J.D. Power and Associates' 2005 U.S. Emerging Technologies Study shows adaptive cruise control to be particularly price-sensitive.
According to the study, 15 percent of respondents were "definitely interested" in adaptive cruise control and 44 percent "probably interested" when they did not know the price of the feature. But when they were told the feature would cost $600, only 8 percent were "definitely interested" and 26 percent were "probably interested."
Parking-assist systems are expected to expand to a wider variety of models but probably not all types of vehicles.
The systems are activated when the transmission is in reverse. They help prevent a driver from running over a child or bicycle or hitting a parked car while backing down a driveway.
Although parking-assist systems are expected to be offered on a wider range of vehicles, Larry Wu, senior director at J.D. Power, says he thinks they will remain a niche product. "You are definitely seeing it (expand) with SUVs and minivans where it makes sense," specifically vehicles with poor sight lines.
"The question is whether customers who are not driving SUVs, large pickups or vans think they have a visibility problem," says Hall. "If they don't, then they probably won't see a benefit for it."
Heated seats are another premium feature unlikely to go mainstream. The appeal is limited to vehicle buyers in cold climates. Some automakers that traditionally made the feature standard have turned it into an option, Hall says.
"The people who don't use it don't miss it," he says. "And the customers are not complaining about it."
You may e-mail Rick Kranz at [email protected]