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Connected Driving 7 min read

Debate worth having: the case for and against active speed limiters

A driver's perspective of a digital dashboard displaying intelligent speed assistance.

All new cars sold in the EU require the installation of intelligent speed assistance. But what if the rules get even stricter and actively control our cars’ speeds?

Could this be the end of the road for speeding? In 2022, European Union (EU) regulations came into force mandating the use of intelligent speed assistance (ISA) systems for all new cars produced. Now, the rules have been tightened. From July 2024, every car sold will require the technology, except for those already registered and in circulation.

Car makers will be free to choose how they implement ISA systems in their vehicles: a gradual acoustic alert, a cascaded vibrating warning, haptic feedback through the acceleration pedal or a speed control function.

A car drives past a speed limit sign on the highway.

In the case of speed control, one systems feedback option for cars exceeding the posted limit is to have their speed “automatically gently reduced”, says the European Road Safety Charter. However, the driver can override the speed control by pressing harder on the accelerator pedal. The system can also be switched off, but will come on again when the car is restarted.

The move is part of the EU’s drive toward zero casualties on Europe’s roads. But data released in March by the European Commission shows progress is stalling in reducing road fatalities across member states, which could force regulators to push for even tougher controls – such as active speed limiters, which drivers can’t override – if drivers continue to ignore the warnings.

We asked two experts to argue the case for and against active speed limiters.

I think this technology is most beneficial in urban environments and near schools, where there are vulnerable road users. Controlling speed there makes sense.

Sjoerd Spaargaren

Product Marketing Manager, Automated Driving, HERE Technologies

Sjoerd Spaargaren, Product Marketing Manager, Automated Driving, HERE Technologies:

“With Vision Zero, the EU’s long-term goal is to get as close as possible to zero fatalities in road transportation by 2050. That makes a lot of sense because worldwide there are still millions of people getting injured in traffic accidents. Vehicles can be dangerous, and the faster you travel, the more severe the accident tends to be. So it’s good that speed limits are being regulated.

“But a certain percentage of the population is quite conservative. They tend not to adopt things too quickly. When seat belts were introduced back in the 1960s, not everybody adopted them at the same rate, and it actually took a few decades for them to be generally accepted. Nowadays, I don’t know anyone who doesn’t wear a seatbelt. It’s the same with airbags and other safety-related functions within a vehicle. And, I predict, it will be the same with active speed assistance.

“However. As vehicles get smarter, faster and more sophisticated, I think there will be further possibilities to include functionalities such as active speed limiters, whether people like it or not. 

A man charges his electric vehicle at an EV charging point on a sunny day.

HERE ISA Map

70+ brands from 30+ OEMs trust HERE for ISA data
Precision is at the heart of Intelligent Speed Assistance. With HERE ISA Map, car makers have access to 100% speed limit coverage across all roads in more than 180 countries, allowing them to comply with ISA regulations.
HERE ISA Map captures high-quality map data and combines that with inputs from vehicle camera sensors and local government data for reliable, accurate coverage and ISA compliance. It means car makers can overcome the limitations of relying solely on camera-based systems, which can be fallible due to factors such as weather and obstacles obscuring signage.

 

“There are already loads of road rules and regulations in place, from traffic lights to speed limits, and people adhere to them to a certain extent. But you still get the occasional person who thinks they are above the law: we’ve all seen those people slow down when they see a camera on the motorway, only to speed up once past it. Active speed limiters would prevent this.

“I think this technology is most beneficial in urban environments and near schools, where there are vulnerable road users. Controlling speed there makes sense.

“Then there’s the fuel efficiency perspective. The faster you drive, the more fuel you use. Maintaining a consistent speed will greatly improve our local environments.

“Because speed limiters aren’t mandatory yet, it’s up to the individual OEMs whether they choose to implement this in their vehicles. But I think it’s crucial they don’t lose the trust of the driver. I think there needs to be the opportunity to override them when you need to exceed the speed limit in an emergency situation.

“In the meantime, warnings of excessive speed, such as those with ISA, will be accepted a lot quicker than active speed limiters which control your speed and can’t be overridden.”

Sometimes, having the ability to drift over the speed limit is actually quite useful, for example, in emergency situations where you need to get out of the way in a hurry.

Alex Goy

Automotive Journalist

Alex Goy, Automotive Journalist:

“These systems can be annoying. I recently drove a car on the motorway with a 70mph speed limit. The car I was driving was screaming at me because it thought the speed limit was 30mph. Now imagine if that car had active speed assistance. It would have slowed me down to 30mph with cars flying past me at more than double the speed. And there’s nothing I could have done about it. Had that been the case, I would have serious concerns about getting in that car again.

“For these systems to work, they need to work properly. All the time. And across borders: if I’m driving from the UK to Europe, will the systems recognize this and convert to kilometers and vice versa? If the system is reliant only on cameras and sensors to detect the speed limit, it won’t work. The tech needs to be geo-fenced and in sync with the various highway agencies.

car-speed-limit-isa-blog.png

Read more — Get ahead with ISA: No speed limit sign? No problem.

 

“But I have to caveat this: breaking the speed limit is illegal. Yet sometimes, having the ability to drift over the speed limit is actually quite useful, for example, in emergency situations where you need to get out of the way in a hurry. With speed limiters, you won’t be able to do that, and that could put you at unnecessary risk.

“When technologies like active speed limiters come into place, they are usually implemented by people who don’t drive, don’t like driving, or haven’t spoken to people who have been in situations where it’s been useful.

“I see only one good outcome of active speed limiters: if cars aren’t able to exceed the speed limit, we won’t need speed cameras anymore.”

Ian Dickson

Ian Dickson

Contributor

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