Under new EU safety rules, all new cars from 2022 must be fitted with Intelligent Speed Assistance (ISA) and ‘black boxes’ that will use the GPS network to locate the car and what the speed limit is for that location and ensure the car does not break that speed limit.
The ‘black box’ telemetry data recorders would also become standard equipment on new cars, allowing accident investigators to access information on speed, steering input and other details for the period immediately prior to a crash.
Britain will follow suit – even if Brexit happens, because the UK Vehicle Certification Agency has ruled that it will mirror EU classification rules.
Though the legislation would make it impossible to fully switch off the speed limiter, drivers would still be able to break the speed limit if they so choose, as the system can be overridden through “normal operation of the accelerator pedal”.
AA president Edmund King said the technology could make cars less safe and the ‘best speed limiter is the driver’s right foot’ when used ‘to do the right speed in the right situation’.
‘There is no doubt that new in-car technology can save lives and there is a good case for autonomous emergency braking to be fitted in all cars.
‘The right speed is often below the speed limit, for example, outside a school with children around, but with ISA there may be a temptation to go at the top speed allowed which may not be appropriate,’ he said.
‘Sometimes a little speed also helps to keep safe on the road, for example, overtaking a tractor on a country road or joining a motorway.’
The bill includes a raft of new safety measures that are now subject to the formal approval of the European Parliament and EU member states in September.
ISA technology works in conjunction with traffic-sign-recognition cameras and GPS data to determine the speed limit on the road the vehicle is being driven.
The system can then automatically adjust the restricted top speed by limiting the engine power.
However, drivers should be able to override the system by pushing hard on the throttle – just in case they’re overtaking another motorist who has decided to put their foot down.
The European Transport Safety Council (ETSC) called for all cars to have a switch to turn the ISA on or off, though each time a vehicle is started the feature will automatically be active.
It will instantly tell the driver to reduce their speed when they’re breaking the law.
If the driver continues to drive above the speed limit for several seconds, the system should sound an alert for a few seconds and display a visual warning until the vehicle is operating at or below the speed limit again, the transport safety council said.
The council is likely to push for there to be no off switch for the limiters once motorists have become accustomed to the systems.
Commenting on the provisional deal, Antonio Avenoso, executive director of the ETSC said: ‘There have only been a handful of moments in the last fifty years which could be described as big leaps forward for road safety in Europe.
The mandatory introduction of the seat belt was one, and the first EU minimum crash safety standards, agreed in 1998 was another.
‘If last night’s agreement is given the formal green light, it will represent another of those moments, preventing 25,000 deaths within 15 years of coming into force.’