An Example of Vehicle Error Proofing


Urban Legends Reference Pages: Cruise Control on Wet Roads Hazard

This is sort of an old urban legend that has been making the rounds again, but there's some truth to it in that we shouldn't use cruise control in our vehicles when it's wet or icy outside.

One thing reminded me of Lean principles and the idea of preventing errors from occurring, a mention in the one email version of this story that's making the rounds that pointed out how certain Toyota models prevent you from using the cruise control when the wipers are on, something mentioned here on the Popular Mechanics site.

Pretty good example of error proofing, don't you think? Are there other cars with that safety protection, or just those with new “adaptive cruise control?”

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Mark Graban
Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker, and podcaster with experience in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. Mark's new book is The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation. He is also the author of Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More, the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, and the anthology Practicing Lean. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.


  1. A cruise control not working when the wipers are on? That would be an excellent example of a feature / program too intelligent for its own good. If my Prius where equipped this way, I couldn’t never use the cruise control here where I live.

    No, I think this is a bad attempt to error proof. The cruise control is something I have to actively turn on, so I would already know the driving conditions when I do. I see no need to be careful, here.

    However, if the cruise control would shut itself off when the wheels spin, that would be good error proofing. My Prius don’t do that.

  2. I am an automotive engineer who almost always uses cruise control to manage to the speed limit, even in traffic.

    That being said, the warning in a GM owners’ manual is as follows:

    Caution: Cruise control can be dangerous where you cannot drive safely at a steady speed. So, do not use your cruise control on winding roads or in heavy traffic. Cruise control can be dangerous on slippery roads. On such roads, fast changes in tire traction can cause excessive wheel slip, and you could lose control. Do not use cruise control on slippery roads.

    That being said, GM is adding electronic stability control as standard equipment on many of its vehicles, and ESC will be standard on all GM vehicles before long. With ESC, the owners’ manual says:

    For vehicles with the StabiliTrak ® system, if it begins to limit wheel spin while the cruise control is being used, the cruise control will automatically disengage. See StabiliTrak ® System . When road conditions allow the cruise control to be safely used again, it can be turned back on.

    It’s my own personal understanding that GM cruise control, since 1981 in some cases, has had control logic that turns off cruise if wheel speed rapidly increases, as vehicle error proofing.

    The NHTSA, in a press release says that ESC has reduced single vehicle crashes by 35% in passenger cars, and an earlier study with a smaller sample showed a 67% reduction in single-vehicle crashes for SUVs, compared to previous models without standard ESC.

    So if you want error-proofing, that’s a good example


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