- Drivers in Europe could be forced to fit speed limiters in their cars, as the European Union looks to new ways to cut the 30,000-a-year road-casualty rate.
- Next-generation speed-limiting technology, such as cameras that "read" speed limit signs and automatically apply the car's brakes if you go over, is under evaluation.
- There's no suggestion that any such speed limiters could be headed for the U.S. at this point.
LONDON — If you break the speed limit, your car will automatically apply the brakes to slow you down.
This is one chilling Orwellian vision of the future that's been floated by Europe's road-safety bureaucrats this week as they look for new ways to cut the 30,000 annual road-death total.
Their proposal is that all new cars be fitted with cameras that can "read" speed limit signs. The brakes would then automatically be applied if you go over the limit.
Another option would be to use satellite navigation to warn the driver of the speed limit. Again, your car would be slowed automatically if you transgress.
Welcome to the world of Intelligent Speed Adaption (ISA), a technology now under evaluation by the European Commission's Mobility and Transport Department.
This is a follow-up to speed-limited technology already fitted to some buses and heavy-goods vehicles. But expanding ISA for normal road cars is something else and has already sparked controversy, not least in the U.K., which sees it as a sinister "Big Brother" invasion of motorists' freedom.
ISA has also been challenged on safety grounds because it would, in the U.K., literally limit the car to 70 mph, the national speed limit. Thus there would no scope for, say, a sudden burst of acceleration to clear a dangerous road situation such as a head-on collision.
Reports also cite the possibility that the EC would insist that every car be fitted with ISA, meaning that all cars currently on the road would need to go to garages to have the ISA technology fitted. However, enforcing that would surely be a logistical impossibility.
The EU transport commission is charged by member states to think up new ways to reduce road deaths, so up to a point, it is only doing its job. And its proposals are, just that, proposals which could still take years to get through, even if they were approved.
Not that speed limiting in itself is anything new. For decades, Japan is a country that has enforced a restriction that all domestically made cars be speed-limited to 180 km/h (112 mph) via an engine ECU chip.
However, this particular regulation does not apply to imported cars and, very quietly, garages can unofficially re-program the ECU.
It could be argued, however, that ISA is another step along the way for satellite monitoring of all cars in Europe which could, in turn, lead to road pricing. That is, you are charged for every journey you make.
Edmunds says: Are the EU's speed-limiting proposals smart and sensible or just plain scary?