Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Speed limiters arrive for all new cars in the European Union

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It was a big week for road safety campaigners in the European Union as Intelligent Speed Assistance (ISA) technology became mandatory on all new cars.

The rules came into effect on July 7 and follow a 2019 decision by the European Commission to make ISA obligatory on all new models and types of vehicles introduced from July 2022. Two years on, and the tech must be in all new cars.

European legislators reckon that the rules will make for safer roads. However, they will also add to the ever-increasing amount of technology rolling around the continent’s highways. While EU law has no legal force in the UK, it’s hard to imagine many manufacturers making an exemption for Britain.

So how does it work? In the first instance, the speed limit on a given road can be detected by using data from a Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) – such as Global Positioning System (GPS) – and a digital map to come up with a speed limit. This might be combined with physical sign recognition.

If the driver is being a little too keen, the ISA system must notify them that the limit has been exceeded but, according to the European Road Safety Charter “not to restrict his/her possibility to act in any moment during driving.”

“The driver is always in control and can easily override the ISA system.”

There are four options available to manufacturers according to the regulations. The first two, a cascaded acoustic or vibrating warning, don’t intervene, while the latter two, haptic feedback through the acceleration pedal and a speed limiter, will. The European Commission noted, “Even in the case of speed control function, where the car speed will be automatically gently reduced, the system can be smoothly overridden by the driver by pressing the accelerator pedal a little bit deeper.”

The RAC road safety spokesperson Rod Dennis said: “While it’s not currently mandated that cars sold in the UK have to be fitted with Intelligent Speed Assistance (ISA) systems, we’d be surprised if manufacturers deliberately excluded the feature from those they sell in the UK as it would add unnecessary cost to production.”

This writer has driven a car equipped with the technology, and while it would be unfair to name and shame particular manufacturers, things are a little hit-and-miss. Road signs are not always interpreted correctly, and maps are not always up to date, meaning the car is occasionally convinced that the speed limit differs from reality, with various beeps and vibrations to demonstrate its belief.

Dennis cautioned, “Anyone getting a new vehicle would be well advised to familiarise themselves with ISA and how it works,” and we would have to agree.

While it is important to understand that the technology is still a driver aid and can easily be overridden, it is not hard to detect the direction of travel. ®

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