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Shaun Sadlier's blog: When your car won't let you speed

Date: 22 March 2019

A couple of months ago, I wrote in a Business Car blog about the possibility of speeding soon becoming a thing of the past, a possibility raised by improved technology and enforcement. 

My thinking at the time was that external factors would force this change - better enforcement cameras and lower police tolerance for speeding being probably the most important. However, a new development might make these moves essentially obsolete.

The European Transport Safety Council (ETSC) has announced that it wants to see intelligent speed assistance systems fitted to all new vehicles within three years. Using GPS and speed sign recognition information linked to engine management, these would effectively prevent speeding happening at all. Your car simply wouldn't let you do it (although an override is being envisaged by pressing firmly on the accelerator pedal).

This might sound a little heavy handed but the ETSC says that its research shows the move could reduce collisions by 30% and cut road deaths by 25,000 people over 15 years. Those are clearly substantial and valuable gains in terms of lives, cost and disruption. 

The idea raises all kinds of issues. At a legislative level, it remains very unclear whether we would align with any legislation prompted by the ETSC following Brexit. At a lower one, it is very possible that there will be quite a high level of resistance from some drivers. 

Apart from the impact on driver behaviour, will it also change the vehicles that we drive? If you are limited to statutory speeds at all time, is there any point in opting for a car with a more powerful engine, its only advantage being in short bursts of acceleration? Also, could it hasten the switch over to electric vehicles, with an enforced, more gentle driving style helping drivers to maximise range?

It's a fascinating development and will lead, we are sure, to an equally interesting debate over the next couple of years, one which we can anticipate with interest.

Shaun Sadlier is head of consultancy at Arval



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