I had the same thoughts and spent time observing mine. I noticed it first will use engine drag slowing car and then apply the brakes which the brake lights do go on. I observed this against a car following in the dark. However this operation appears to use a lot of the rear brakes for the normal slowing before the harder braking. Evident by the added brake dust on rear wheels after using cruise control. I wonder if the rear brake replacements will be sooner than normal on a average car that typically has a 70/30 use ratio front/rear.