All new cars in Europe will have speed limiters fitted by 2022 under new plans. And, although the UK is planning to leaving the EU, it is expected that the law will extend to the UK.
The intention is for the technology to use a combination of GPS and road signs to determine the speed limit on a given stretch of road and limit the vehicle speed accordingly.
There have, of course, been a number of concerns raised about the move.
I’m sure the technology will have improved by 2022, but I have seen problems with the present systems that show the speed limit on your dashboard.
On my road home, I pass a car park which as a 15 mph limit sign at its entrance. Many of the cars I have driven have wrongly assumed that this is the limit for the road I am driving on and, if that were to happen after 2022, my car would presumably slow to 15 mph.
Conversely, I regularly drive a road that has a 15 mph limit posted and have seen it interpreted by the software as 95 mph!
But, generally speaking, the systems are remarkably accurate.
There are concerns, on which I have an open mind, that by taking away the control of speed, you may find that drivers “switch off” and become less aware of their driving.
There is also a question of road safety priorities. Research into accidents and their causes has, quite consistently, put “exceeding the speed limit” in single figure percentages when it comes to causes of accidents.
Department of Transport figures in 2008 revealed that speeding was a cause in only 3% of accidents. By far and away the largest cause of accidents is “failure to look properly”.
The reason speeding is targeted for action, rather than the much more significant accident causes, is that it is an easy target. You can use technology to limit speed, but you cannot use technology to force people to observe the road and anticipate dangers. All you can do is educate and introduce measures aimed at reducing distractions – like banning mobile phones.
Another concern about speed limiters is that there are rare occasions where you need to accelerate out of danger. Like, for example, an overtaking manoeuvre where you need to get past and back to the safety of your own side of the road.
Fortunately, it seems that the forthcoming technology will have a kick-down facility (a bit like the kick-down on the accelerator of an automatic car, but probably needing an even heftier shove), that, in emergency, will allow you to accelerate despite the speed limiter.
Early reports also suggest that the systems will be able to be deactivated, but will engage automatically each time you start the car.
But, if you do deactivate the system, beware that there is a parallel plan to fit all cars with data recorders which would provide information to investigating officers in the event of a conviction or an accident, and this evidence would presumably include deactivation of speed limiters and the actual speed of speed of the vehicle.