Not long ago, fully autonomous vehicles for the masses were said to be just around the corner. As it turns out, making the final leap to full autonomy — self-driving on any road at any time — remains tantalizingly out of reach both for engineers and safety regulators. And despite all the attention such vehicles have drawn, Americans aren’t exactly clamoring for self-driving cars: The latest AAA annual survey on automated vehicles found that just 14% of drivers would trust riding in a self-driving car, about the same as 2020.
But tech features that form the building blocks for self-driving have spread quickly into mainstream vehicles in just a few years (check out our 2016 report here). These systems can now aid the driver with steering, acceleration and braking — though we stress that, no matter their capabilities, they are not truly self-driving. All such systems still require the driver to be in charge and ready to take over.
Key among the current systems are adaptive cruise control and lane-centering steering. The best ones function from highway speeds down to a full stop and can relieve you of much grunt work, both in congested commutes and in long hours on the highway. While most of these systems still require you to keep your hands on the wheel, a few now let you leave your hands off the wheel in certain situations. But no matter what you see on YouTube, none as of now let you safely take your eyes off the road to read, sleep or update your Instagram. (If you want more explanation about these features, you’ll find it below, following the list.)
Here are the mass-market brands (excluding exotics and uber-luxury cars) that offer such high-level adaptive cruise control and lane-centering steering for 2021. Note that for simplicity’s sake, we list just the root nameplates; we don’t break out related offshoots, such as alternate body styles that share major components and naming (e.g., the Toyota Corolla Hatchback or Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport), nor do we split off performance (e.g., the Audi S4) or electrified (e.g., the Ford Escape Hybrid) versions. We made a few exceptions where the feature is exclusive to just one variant, but we kept things at the overall model level for the most part.
Alphabetically by brand, here’s the state of these self-driving features for the 2021 model year:
Acura bundles most driver-assist tech under its AcuraWatch suite of safety features. Depending on the vehicle, AcuraWatch includes a Lane Keeping Assist System, Adaptive Cruise Control with Low-Speed Follow, or both. Lane-centering steering via LKAS functions only from 45 mph up, but the TLX (and coming MDX) add Traffic Jam Assist with lane-centering steering down to a stop. Note that Acura’s MDX skipped the 2021 model year and the redesigned 2022, which just went on sale, now includes hands-on lane-centering steering and adaptive cruise control, both of which can work down to a stop.
Adaptive Cruise Control with Full Stop, plus two lane-centering steering systems: Traffic Jam Assist, which works up to 37 mph, and the Highway Assist System, which works up to 90 mph on lane-marked highways intuited through GPS. Both are hands-on systems.
Audi terminology varies. Traffic Jam Assist provides hands-on lane-centering steering at vehicle speeds up to around 40 mph. Active Lane Assist, which Audi also characterizes as lane centering, works above roughly 40 mph. For adaptive cruise control, look for Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop and Go, sometimes simply called Adaptive Cruise Control or Adaptive Cruise Assist. It’s available on every 2021 Audi model except the R8 and TT sports cars. The TT also offers something called Active Lane Assist, but its version does not include lane centering. Note that the Audi A3 skipped the 2021 model year and the redesigned 2022 will include lane centering and adaptive cruise control to a stop.
Adaptive cruise control that operates to a stop goes by Active Cruise Control with Stop & Go. A step beyond, Active Lane Keeping Assist and Extended Traffic Jam Assistant (sometimes called Active Driving Assistant for all three, including the cruise control) offer hands-on lane-centering steering that works to a stop in certain traffic conditions. Finally, Extended Traffic Jam Assistant, — now available on more than half a dozen models new or substantially updated since 2019 — allows hands-free lane centering on certain divided highways at speeds up to 40 mph as long as you’re paying attention (verified with a driver-facing camera). BMW is one of three brands in the U.S. (the others are Cadillac and Ford) to offer conditional hands-free driving for the 2021 model year, and more are coming. In our experience with ETJA, the system transitions to hands-on lane centering when you pass 40 mph.
Depending on the car, look for Adaptive Cruise Control-Advanced or Adaptive Cruise Control-Camera.
Adaptive Cruise Control-Advanced or Advanced Adaptive Cruise Control. Hands-free lane-centering steering from a stop up to highway speeds, which you can activate on certain highways only, comes via Cadillac’s Super Cruise system. Introduced for the 2018 model year, Super Cruise is no longer the only hands-free steering system in a U.S. production vehicle — Ford and BMW offer it now or will within the 2021 model year, and others have systems coming soon after that. Super Cruise doesn’t relieve you of the need to pay attention: You have to be ready to take back the wheel, and it checks on you via a driver-facing camera.
Adaptive Cruise Control-Advanced or Adaptive Cruise Control-Camera, depending on the vehicle.
Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop or Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop and Go.
Depending on the model, Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop or Adaptive Cruise Control Plus with Full Stop.
Look for Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop-and-Go, though some models carry simpler designations. Ford now has packaged many assistance features into a suite called Ford Co-Pilot360 Technology, though contents can vary by model or trim level. A more advanced suite, called Co-Pilot360 Assist Plus, adds hands-on lane-centering steering to a stop for most models it’s offered on.
Separately, a new option called Ford Co-Pilot360 Assist 2.0 with Active Drive Assist will debut on the Mustang Mach-E and the redesigned F-150. It will allow hands-free, though not attention-free, driving. Like with similar systems from BMW and Cadillac, a driver-facing camera ensures you’re watching the road; the feature will work only on certain divided highways approved by Ford.
The Active Drive Assist software will come in the second half of the 2021 calendar year through over-the-air updates for vehicles already on the road. The hands-free lane centering can operate down to a stop, as there’s “no lower speed limit for ADA to function as long as other critical conditions” are met, a Ford spokesperson told Cars.com. Note, too, that the F-150 requires you to pay for a prep package with certain hardware to be able to get it; the hardware cannot be added later. The Mach-E has the prep package standard on most models.
Smart Cruise Control with Machine Learning, Lane Keeping Assist and Lane Following Assist (LFA enables hands-on lane-centering steering at vehicle speeds up to 95 mph). A feature called Highway Driving Assist (G90) or Highway Driving Assist II (an update in the G80 and GV80) enhances the capability of these systems on highways with GPS and navigation data to adjust for the specific location and road. HDA also now is available on some models from Genesis’ parent automaker, Hyundai. The G70 offers only LKA. Although Genesis does not call it true lane centering our yearlong experience in the G70 found LKA generally centered the vehicle above 40 mph. A Genesis representative told Cars.com that the G70’s system would “automatically steer at higher speeds to keep you within your lane but will not necessarily keep you centered.”
Adaptive Cruise Control-Advanced or Adaptive Cruise Control-Camera, depending on the vehicle.
Most driver-assist tech is wrapped into a Honda Sensing suite of safety systems, but features vary. Honda Sensing includes a Lane-Keeping Assist System that enables hands-on lane-centering steering at higher speeds — not to be confused with similarly named LKA systems from other brands, which mostly intervene as you approach lane markings rather than actively centering. Six models pair LKAS with Adaptive Cruise Control with Low-Speed Follow, which works all the way to a stop. Four other models, however, pair it with adaptive cruise control that functions only at vehicle speeds above 22 mph.
Smart Cruise Control with Stop & Go and Lane Following Assist, which adds hands-on lane-centering steering to a stop. An additional feature called Highway Driving Assist — offered on the Elantra, Ioniq, Palisade, Santa Fe and Sonata — enhances these systems on highways with GPS and navigation data to adjust speed for the specific location and road. Hyundai dubs its overall suite of safety and driver-assist features SmartSense, though its specific contents can vary by vehicle. The LFA is not to be confused with Lane Keeping Assist, a separate feature on some vehicles that, in Cars.com’s experience, makes subtle steering corrections to keep the car centered above moderate vehicle speeds, though Hyundai officials don’t call it lane centering.
Infiniti calls its adaptive cruise control with full-stop capabilities Intelligent Cruise Control with Full-Speed Range, or some variation of that label. Hands-on lane-centering steering at higher speeds (Q50 and Q60) goes by Active Lane Control, while Infiniti’s most robust system — which includes lane centering all the way down to a stop — is the ProPilot Assist offered on the QX50 and on the upcoming 2022 QX55. Note that the Infiniti QX60 SUV is skipping the 2021 model year before a redesigned 2022 version appears later this year.
Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop & Go constitutes adaptive cruise control down to a stop in slow-moving traffic, and it automatically resumes if the car ahead starts moving within a few seconds. Adaptive Cruise Control with Steering Assist adds hands-on lane-centering steering to a stop. Steering Assist is not to be confused with Lane Keep Assist on many Jaguar models. Despite a name similar to some brands’ lane-centering systems, Jaguar’s LKA is a departure assist that nudges you back when you drift toward lane markings.
Active Drive Assist on the new Grand Cherokee L adds hands-on lane-centering steering, a first for Jeep. For the others, look for Adaptive Cruise Control Plus, Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop or simply Adaptive Cruise Control, depending on the model. Note that the Renegade also offers adaptive cruise control, but only the others above have full-stop capabilities.
Smart Cruise Control with Stop & Go. On the Niro EV, Telluride, Sportage, Sorento, K5 and Seltos, hands-on lane-centering steering comes in the form of Lane Follow Assist. By contrast, Lane Keep Assist (sometimes Lane Keeping Assist) is a separate feature that Kia officials don’t call lane centering, but Cars.com’s experience in various Kia models has been that LKA generally keeps the car centered in its lane above vehicle speeds of around 40 mph.
Adaptive Cruise Control or Adaptive Cruise Control with Steering Assist, which adds hands-on lane-centering steering. Don’t confuse Steering Assist with Lane Keep Assist, a separate Land Rover system that only intervenes to help you not to drift lane markings.
All-Speed Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, which works to a stop. Hands-on lane-centering steering comes as either Lane-Keep Assist (LC) or Lane Tracing Assist (ES, IS, LS, NX, RX, UX). Both systems work down to a stop, but the more advanced LTA can trace the path of the car in front, not just lane markings, and better keep the vehicle centered on curvier roads.
Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop-and-Go and Lane Centering. The Aviator, Corsair and Nautilus offer a version of Lincoln’s Co-Pilot360 assistance tech suite dubbed Co-Pilot360 Plus, which adds hands-on lane-centering steering.
Adaptive Cruise Control, which in this case functions all the way down to a stop. Maserati’s Highway Assist System can provide hands-on lane-centering steering all the way to a stop on GPS-intuited highways or limited-access freeways. An upgrade for 2021, however, is an Active Driver Assist system, which extends the same functionality to non-highway roads.
Mazda Radar Cruise Control with Stop & Go. On the Mazda3 and CX-30, a new feature for 2021 called Traffic Jam Assist offers hands-on lane-centering steering from a stop up to vehicle speeds of 40 mph.
Active Distance Assist Distronic and Active Steering Assist.
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Depending on the context, Active Cruise Control or Adaptive Cruise Control.
Mitsubishi simply calls it Adaptive Cruise Control. Note that the gasoline Outlander and the Eclipse Cross both skipped the 2021 model year, and Mitsubishi is rolling out redesigns for the 2022 model year that will be on sale in the 2021 calendar year. The plug-in hybrid version of the current Outlander, however, carried over for the 2021 model year.
Intelligent Cruise Control with Full Speed Range or some variation of those terms. It’s called simply Intelligent Cruise Control for many models, but the system still can bring you to a halt in bumper-to-bumper traffic. Hands-on lane-centering steering comes by way of Nissan’s ProPilot Assist system, which combines adaptive cruise control and lane-centering steering, both down to a stop. Note that the Rogue Sport is based on a separate platform than the Rogue and thus merits its own callout despite similar naming. The Pathfinder, meanwhile, skips the 2021 model year, and Nissan has previewed a redesigned 2022 Pathfinder due in the summer.
Polestar’s Pilot Assist, a system with the same name and capabilities as that of fellow Geely-owned brand Volvo, combines hands-on lane-centering steering with adaptive cruise control, both of which work all the way to a stop.
Adaptive Cruise Control. Lane centering goes by Active Lane Keep on the Cayenne, while the Taycan offers Traffic Jam Assist with Active Lane Keep and a more robust lane-keeping capability as part of Porsche’s InnoDrive system. (Other Porsche models also offer InnoDrive, but capabilities vary, so the name alone doesn’t signal all such capabilities.)
Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop on the Ram 2500/3500 or Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop, Go and Hold on the Ram 1500.
Subaru’s EyeSight system, which bundles Adaptive Cruise Control down to a stop with various safety technologies, is available on all models except the BRZ coupe. The Ascent, Crosstrek (but not Crosstrek Hybrid), Forester, Legacy and Outback offer an updated version of EyeSight that adds Advanced Adaptive Cruise Control with Lane Centering. Don’t confuse it with EyeSight’s Lane Keep Assist function, which can only apply slight steering corrections as you approach lane markings but will not actively center the vehicle in its lane.
Autopilot, Tesla’s robust driving assistance system. Although Tesla bills it as a hands-on-the-wheel system, early versions allowed you to drive hands-free for extended periods. Tesla has since updated Autopilot software in new cars and ones already on the road (through over-the-air updates) to deactivate if it senses drivers’ hands are repeatedly off the wheel.
Toyota’s adaptive cruise control down to a stop is variously called Full-Speed Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, Full-Speed Range Dynamic Radar Cruise Control or Dynamic Radar Cruise Control with Full-Speed Range — the key words obviously being “full-speed.” For hands-on lane-centering steering, look for Lane Tracing Assist or Lane Trace Assist, depending on the vehicle.
Volkswagen is rolling out IQ.Drive for model-year 2021, a suite of assistance features including a new Travel Assist system that combines Adaptive Cruise Control and hands-on lane-centering steering, called Lane Assist, in four models. Note that when Travel Assist is not activated, the lane centering functions at higher speeds only. The Atlas got a mid-2021 update for 2021.5 that gives more robust lane centering, but the 2021 Atlas Cross Sport also has the capability.
Volvo’s Pilot Assist system, which incorporates hands-on lane centering and adaptive cruise control. Both systems work all the way to a stop.
The systems above have myriad technological differences and may require specific road conditions. We’ve found that real-world performance, smooth operation and ease of use also can vary. When shopping, it’s a good idea to research any prospective vehicle’s self-driving systems — how they work and whether they can do what you expect. And after you buy, insist that the dealer’s tech specialist walks you through safe operation.
Want to know more about the types of systems named above? Read on for a deeper dive.
The current “smart” cruise control systems build on conventional fixed-speed cruise control (which reportedly dates to Chryslers in 1958) and basic adaptive cruise control, which uses sensors and braking to maintain a selectable distance from the car ahead up to your set speed. (In the U.S., adaptive cruise control dates back to the 2000 Mercedes-Benz S-Class; it was limited for a time to luxury cars.)
Adaptive cruise that maintains a set distance at highway speeds now is widely available, but systems that also function at lower speeds and can bring you to a full stop are increasingly available. Some full-speed systems will bring you to a stop in traffic, then require you to apply the brakes and reaccelerate afterward. Others can hold the vehicle at the stop and resume speed when the car ahead starts moving again (up to a given time limit). The systems use sensors such as radar, ultrasound, cameras or a combination. And the most advanced of these systems don’t just monitor the vehicle directly ahead but look beyond it.
This is not to be confused with lane departure steering assist, which nudges you back when you drift toward lane markings — and often pinballs you toward the opposite side of the lane. True lane centering tracks lane markings or the vehicle ahead, or both, and actively centers your vehicle in its lane.
Almost all such systems require you to keep your hands on the wheel. They’ll warn you and eventually shut off if its sensors detect your hands are off for more than a brief time. Lane-centering steering systems also will deactivate if lane markings disappear, such as with construction zones, merging lanes or bad weather. Most such systems now work from a stop up to highway speeds, but some more basic systems function only above or below certain speeds.
These systems center the car within the lane without requiring your hands on the wheel. For 2021, three systems — Cadillac’s Super Cruise, BMW’s Extended Traffic Jam Assistant and Ford’s Active Drive Assist — currently allow this or will enable it within the model year. But these systems still require your eyes on the road, and they verify this using interior cameras that watch you. The BMW system is designed, as its name suggests, for low-speed (under 40 mph) congestion on highways. The Cadillac and most others allow full-speed use, but only on pre-mapped, limited-access freeways in the U.S. and Canada using GPS and cloud-based map data. While Ford will be the first mainstream brand to offer such a system, Nissan will join with the rollout of its new Ariya electric SUV, coming first in Japan and expected in the U.S. in late 2021 with ProPilot Assist 2.0. Jeep also has a system coming for the 2022 Grand Cherokee L. And GM, the automaker behind Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet and GMC, plans to expand Super Cruise beyond Cadillac beginning with the 2022 model year.
Attention-free driving in a commercially available car isn’t here yet. The first production car to allow limited eyes-free driving under certain low-speed conditions (and you still had to be ready to take over) was to be the latest generation of Audi’s flagship A8 sedan with a Traffic Jam Pilot system using some two dozen camera, radar, sonic and laser sensors. It would have been a first step toward the next level of autonomy, but U.S. and global regulatory delays stalled the rollout and Audi has reportedly dropped the plan.
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