Volkswagen Caddy Bluemotion: Smart new tech impresses
An ingenious feature of our latest test Volkswagen Caddy is the adaptive cruise control (ACC) system which is able to immediately detect traffic slowing ahead and automatically reduce the speed to match.
The system uses radar which means the van can also work out its lateral position on multi-lane roads. On one recent trip from Sutton to Leicester in our test van we are not exaggerating when we say we did not use the pedals the whole way from the M25 to junction 21 of the M1.
The dashboard on the Caddy regularly flashes up graphics that tell you when a car is about to cut in front of you or a slower vehicle is just ahead.
There is also a warning bleeper that reminds you to brake manually if required, vital for example if the car in front has slowed sharply. One of the downsides was when a slower car decided to hog the middle lane on a stretch of the M1.
In cruise control mode it feels like the van wants to undercut the car so if you want to remain in the slow lane either be prepared to twiddle the little buttons on the steering wheel to reset and lower your speed or alternatively do some gentle manual braking.
Something else that takes a bit of getting used to is when you are in the slow lane of the motorway and cars join from the left. The instinct is to want to start braking earlier than when cruise control does but the key is to trust the technology to do the right thing, as we did on our journey.
Your test driver did more than 300 miles of driving in cruise control mode in one day and definitely felt more relaxed and comfortable at the end of it than if he had been constantly using the accelerator, brake and clutch pedals. For drivers who spend a lot of time carrying goods up and down motorways and dual carriageways the technology certainly is a boon.
However, for those who do mainly urban drops, we’re not so sure as the ACC is not as useful in the stop-start conditions of the town centre.
It’s hard not to conclude that ACC systems like this one from VW are a way of gently introducing the driving public to the idea of what autonomous vehicles can do.
We certainly wouldn’t be surprised to see this type of technology becoming standard on vans over the next few years, particularly in view of the potential safety gains and fuel saving benefits.