Created By: AmuroNT1 on July 6, 2011

Cruise Control Equals Autopilot

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Trope
In 1945, mechanical engineer Ralph Teetor invented cruise control, which helped revolutionize the automotive industry. In short, what it is is a device that detects a vehicle's speed and then maintains it automatically, without constant use of the gas pedal. What cruise control isn't is autopilot; it maintains speed, but the driver still has to otherwise operate the car. However, it's become a cheap and easy gag to paint a character as stupid (or just a bad driver) by having them make this mistake, despite the fact that cruise control has been around for over 50 years and practically every car has them. If anything, its casual use might be turning this into a Dead Horse Trope.

Examples:
  • One Bloom County comic has Billy and the Boingers on tour. Steve calls them together for a meeting, but freaks out when he realizes everyone's there. Opus responds "Relax, I put it on 'cruise control'."
  • Used as a throwaway gag in King of the Hill, where this is said about Hank's mother by her new husband.
Community Feedback Replies: 12
  • July 6, 2011
    suedenim
    There's an Urban Legend version of this, as covered by Snopes. I remember hearing it told as a "true story" with the "rich Arab in a van" variant circa 1978.

    Oh, isn't "revolutionize the automotive industry" a bit of a stretch? Cruise control is still just a fairly minor extra.
  • July 6, 2011
    wanderlustwarrior
    Attempted by some of the boys in The Simpsons, where they tried to reach the World's Fair.
  • July 6, 2011
    VandalHeartX
    In the movie, "The Darwin Awards," several of the confirmed stories of the titular awards are recounted as part of an insurance prospective algorithm. The protagonist is trying to determine if Massive human stupidity can be predicted. All of these stories are actually true, as they have been confirmed by the people who run the Darwin Awards group. One story was about a rich, but airheaded couple who decided to rent an RV for a cross-country road trip. The rental clerk, in going through the features offered in the available models mentions cruise control, and the wife stops him to ask for clarification. Realizing this woman is an idiot, he simplifies the explanation and tells her it's "like autopilot for a car." This ends in disaster when she engages the cruise control and then walks away from the steering wheel to give her husband some... special attention. At 70mph.
  • July 7, 2011
    Hadashi
    Cruise control is basically unheard-of outside America. I had no idea what it was until you just explained it, though I have heard it mentioned before.
  • March 7, 2012
    tvtroper98
    Also from The Simpsons, in one episode, Homer and Ned are driving to Springfield Elementary to save the kids, trapped in the school by a huge snowstorm. Everything is going good...untill Homer, being Homer, realizes that Ned's car has cruise control, turns it on, yells for it to go to the school, and relaxes. This turned out to be for the best though: The car drove into a cracker factory and crashed into a salt silo, which fell in front of the school, it opened, and the salt spilled out and melted the snow, freeing the kids.
  • October 5, 2012
    johnnye
    Any reason this YKTTW didn't go anywhere? Seems valid to me, albeit with not many examples.

    Compare Who Is Driving.

    ^^ America has a lot more long, straight, low-traffic roads than most countries, I'd guess that has a lot to do with it. I wouldn't be surprised if it was popular in Australia, though.
  • October 5, 2012
    aurora369
    There's also a lot of straight, low-traffic roads in Russia, but no one installs cruise control on locally made cars, it's mostly a feature on imported models. Probably has to do with poor quality of the roads.
  • October 6, 2012
    foxley
    Cruise control is a popular option on higher end vehicles in Australia.

    There is definite trope here and we have more than Three Examples And A Name. I think, i launched, this would grow slowly.
  • October 6, 2012
    DracMonster
    Would the CAPS LOCK IS CRUISE CONTROL FOR COOL meme count?
  • October 6, 2012
    dvorak
    ^that's cruise control for awesome.
  • October 7, 2012
    TBeholder
    ^^^^ straight roads? Because tilting counts... :]
  • October 7, 2012
    mew4ever23
    The parent characters in Neds Newt once did this in a motorhome. They set the cruise control, and went into the back to have a snooze. The home went off road, and at the end of the episode they came back to find nothing had happened - they went back on road.

    We're well on our way to launch, I think. Given good Wiki Magic, this article could quickly grow.
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