Since the EU approved the mandate of speed limiters in every car by the year 2022, a lot of people have become curious about how the technology works and what it does to make the roads safer. While legislators and supporters of the technology rejoiced when the European Commission voted on the mandate, other parties are more suspicious.
One of the biggest critics has been the insurance industry, which could stand to lose revenue if the technology is a success. But there are some people concerned that speed limiting technology has not been fully tested and could be better scrutinized before it has to be in every single EU vehicle.
How Do Speed Limiters Work?
Speed limiters are a cousin of automation. The Intelligent Speed Assistance (ISA) system works by receiving information through GPS that tells vehicles what the speed limit is and what the conditions of the road are. An optional video camera can also be combined to recognize road signs. With these technologies, the car limits the speed of the vehicle.
Drivers can override the system, however, by pushing hard on the accelerator. Another feature that has been mandated by the EU is the on/off switch. This would lapse every time the vehicle is started, but could give drivers the ability to do without the ISA system. It will still be mandated in every vehicle.
The EU says that the plan to include ISA in every car could help avoid 140,000 serious injuries by 2038. It aims to cut road deaths down to zero by the year 2050. The EU Commissioner, Elzbieta Bienkowska, said that every 25,000 people die on the roads in Europe and that most of the accidents are caused by human error.
Brake, the road safety charity, praised the decision, calling it a “landmark day.” The AA, on the other hand, has said that speed can help overtake motorways. While it won’t be mandated until 2022, many car companies have already put the technology into their automobiles. Tesla has ISA in addition to other automation in the vehicles. Mercedes, Ford, Renault, Volvo, and more have models available with the ISA system. The system is widely known to be safe, but many argue that it is too soon to know if the system will be widely effective.
How Safe is it?
Many cars already have a forward-facing camera, but there is a question mark over whether the sign-recognition technology is sufficient. According to the site MoneyPug, which is known as a site to compare car insurance, many insurance companies have shown concern over the fact that there may be a gap between the ISA system and the driver pushing hard on the gas should they need to escape an oncoming vehicle quickly.
The AA has said that the ISA technology is not so black and white. Speed limiters could inhibit the driver’s natural instincts that prevent accidents. For example, outside a school, where children are around, the ISA may drive at the top speed despite it being more advantageous to drive slower than the speed limit. The real concern is that the technology has been tested enough. Once the kinks are smoothed out, ISA will likely save lives but until then it also may cause some problems.
How Many Lives Will it Save?
Statistics from the UK show that more than 1,700 people die on the roads each year. There is no doubt that too many people die in car accidents, but will it ever prevent every death? Supporters argue that the ISA system can limit deaths significantly, but until the technology is widely used there is no way to know for sure. Some say it is a little preemptive of the EU, which is known for its amount of regulations. The charity Brake, legislators, and other supporters of ISA argue that the amount of deaths the technology it can prevent will be much larger than the accidents it causes.
While speed limiters won’t be mandatory until 2022, they will continue to become more common. As we get closer to the mandate, the reality will start to come into focus. Only time will tell if speed limiters are really as safe as legislators say they are.