Called ACC, it was previously fitted only to some high-end Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Jaguar models, but is now becoming available in family cars like Fiat's Stilo.
The global market for ACC-equipped passenger cars and light trucks in 2002 is less than 10,000 units but it is forecast to reach 8.1 million units in 2006, with Western Europe accounting for 37%, South-East Asia 31% and North America 28%.
Mohammed Usman of E2V Technologies, which has patented the technology for the key componentry in the system, said: 'ACC is the backbone to the development of future generations of driver comfort and safety products, especially when used in conjunction with other driver aids, and the costs are now becoming acceptable for fitment to vehicles across almost all-market segments.'
Consumer demand is playing major part. A recent JD Power and Associates study found that 66% of drivers in the UK, France and Germany are 'definitely or probably' interested in equipping their next cars with ACC.
Tony Hayes, managing director of the automotive division of market intelligence provider JATO Dynamics, said: 'The congested nature of European roads means that Adaptive Cruise Control has a big advantage over traditional cruise control, in these markets, as you do not have to reset the system every time traffic in front slows and then speeds up again.
'I would expect the German and UK markets to be key adopters of this technology.'