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The concept of a semi-autonomous adaptive cruise control (SAACC) system is developed, which enjoys significant advantages over present day adaptive cruise control (ACC) systems in terms of highway safety and traffic flow capacity. The semi-autonomous systems combine the deployment advantages of autonomous vehicles with the performance advantages of fully automated highway systems (AHSs) in which vehicles operate cooperatively as a platoon. Unlike platoon systems, the semi-autonomous systems are immediately deployable on present day highways, where both manually driven and adaptive cruise controlled vehicles can coexist. Our theoretical results show that the proposed system is able to maintain smaller time gaps safely, is string stable, and is guaranteed to have smaller actuator inputs than a standard autonomous ACC system. The simulation results indicate that more accurate and smoother tracking, smaller time gaps, smaller control efforts, and increased robustness to vehicle dynamics are achieved by semi-autonomous control.