A new ruling by the EU could mean that all new cars sold in Europe from 2022 onwards will be fitted with speed limiters.
The technology, called Intelligent Speed Assistance, or ISA, has been provisionally approved by the European Commission, although it has not yet been ratified by the European parliament. This is likely to occur by September 2019.
The system will use GPS data, along with cameras to detect speed limit signs, to establish when a vehicle is exceeding the speed limit, then reduce power to the engine to bring the vehicle back down to a legal speed.
Some motoring organisations are unconvinced by the ISA. It can be argued that in certain circumstances, for example while overtaking another vehicle, restricting speed can be dangerous. When ISA technology is first introduced, drivers will be able to override the speed limiter by pressing hard on the accelerator. This option can, in theory, then be phased out as drivers get used to the new technology. If the vehicle exceeds the speed limit for too long, a dashboard warning and alarm sound will remind the driver to slow down.
According to the European Transport Safety Council, ISA could mean a 30% reduction in vehicle collisions, potentially saving 25,000 lives by 2037. Those in favour of the move call it the biggest advance in vehicle safety since the introduction of the seat belt.
Breaking the speed limit, or driving too fast for the road conditions, is one of the leading causes of road traffic accidents in the UK. While ISA cannot prevent motorists from driving too quickly in situations where the road surface or weather conditions are poor, the system will at least ensure that vehicles keep to the legal limit on both urban and rural roads.
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A range of other vehicle safety features are also scheduled to be made mandatory in 2022, including automatic emergency braking, a warning system to alert drivers when their vehicle leaves its lane, and electronic data recording to help record road accidents and investigate their causes.
Some drivers of new and used cars, particularly younger drivers and those who have recently passed their test, already use a data recording system, known as a black box, to keep tabs on their speed and how economically they drive. This technology rewards safe and careful drivers with a reduction in the cost of their insurance policy.
The Department for Transport, which works with partners worldwide to improve road safety, has said that the UK will follow the European ruling even if the country is no longer part of the European Union in 2022. As well as making cars and roads safer for everyone, this will allow the motor trade to produce cars for sale overseas without modifications being made.