Speed limiters will be made compulsory fitted to all new vehicles in 2022 under proposals put forward by the European Union and this will be copied by the UK Government, as confirmed by the Department of Transport. The official purpose of the speed limiters is that it will reduce road deaths by 20%, however drivers can still override the stated speed limit if they need to in case of an emergency manoeuvre.

This is the first step towards the gradual full automation of all vehicles. Driver safety and the reduction in road deaths is being used as the justifiable reason to impose it, but this is only the beginning of a set of rules that will eventually lead to all vehicles driving themselves.

The driving Nanny

New European legislation is to come in to force for 2022, in which all new cars will be fitted with ‘Intelligent Speed Assistance’; a system that automatically restricts power when it recognises, you’re speeding, thereby slowing the vehicle down to the limit.

This isn’t really about the kind of unobtrusive technology being used to monitor our daily movements though, we’re now talking about technology that interacts with our surroundings to physically prevent us from taking part in any ‘wrongdoing’.

And in this case, ‘wrongdoing’ isn’t robbing a bank, flashing an innocent bystander or physically harming someone, wrongdoing is all about the evils of speed, for no matter what the reasoning, you’re the Devil Incarnate should you allow your speedometer to creep above the permissible limit; this is speed enforcement en masse.

And it gets worse.

Given the fact that it uses a combination of GPS-tracking black box technology, sign-reading cameras, and connectivity, it’s entirely possible for the system to tag your time, location, and speed to send off a detailed report about your nefarious activities, all ready for prosecution. And while that sounds extreme, think of this: with Intelligent Speed Assistance, revenue from convicting speeders will be down, and relying on safety cameras alone to make the difference just won’t cut it.

No obvious reduction in deaths per year

These new proposals are down to the fact that for the last decade, fatalities and casualties from road accidents have remained pretty constant – around the 1,700 per year mark. And yet the number of cars has increased by around 2m in the last decade, and so while the numbers are similar, the percentages are smaller – a fact not mentioned by the government.

Further still, much of the in-action with road safety comes down to budget cuts and a drop in the long-term spending; there’s no road safety expertise at local council level, and no long-term strategies in place to reduce accident numbers.

With an estimated price of £2,000 added to each new car (for the incorporation of the system), it’s the motorist (once again) that’s been tasked with footing the bill.

Safest roads in Europe

And yet still there’s another question. Is this really about road safety? Are our roads dangerous enough to warrant the actual physical interference of the government in our daily driving activities?
According to a new European Commission study, Britain has the safest roads of any European country, so while we’re a country (apparently) full of speeders and hooligans, we’re doing OK.

Of course, it’s easy to blame this at the feet of the Eurocrats, and thank all things holy that Brexit is happening, but despite it being a European Commission approved legislative act, we’re set to follow the legislation with or without Brexit. This is most definitely happening.

I’m not against measures that work to reduce inappropriate speeding, I don’t see my local ring-road as my own personal racetrack, and as an automotive engineer, I’d argue that ‘speeding’ in one car could be a completely different experience to breaking the law in another. And what does this mean for high performance cars, sold by all the main automotive brands? Does that mean that a shiny top of range Bugati Veyron can only pootle along at 70 MPH in the UK? It seems almost laughable, but this is the imminent reality we all face.

But what I do object to, is the physical interaction, taking control away from the motorist, and wresting it in the hands of a government think tank that tells us they know best. It’s allowing the government to take drastic measures to force us to comply with the lowest standard of driving permissible, while I’ve spent a lifetime improving, learning and demonstrating courteous & respectful driving, albeit with the occasional burst of speed. What is point of Advanced Driving Courses anymore if this happens?

More accidents not less?

Finally, we’ve already learnt that reducing the speed limits to 20mph has the opposite effect; accident statistics rise, and it’s proven to be down to lack of concentration or complacency for the lower speed. What happens when the driver must concentrate less because the car will automatically monitor & adjust the speed? We could actually see more accidents because the drivers think, ‘the car has this under control’ and increases in accidents caused by driver distraction could skyrocket.

What do you think to the new speed limiters? Will they be a good thing for road safety? Or is this a step closer to being forcibly stopped from controlling our vehicles? Let us know in the comments below please.

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