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Speed Limiters Now Mandatory in All New EU Cars

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Speed Limiters Now Mandatory in All New EU Carspicture alliance - Getty Images
  • European Union mandate for Intelligent Speed Assist (ISA) systems, which warn the driver and can limit vehicle speed, come into force this month.

  • Manufacturers can choose from four different methods to warn drivers they're speeding, though the warnings are still easy to circumvent.

  • Starting in 2022 all newly introduced car models in the EU have had Intelligent Speed Assist (ISA) installed, but now all new vehicles must feature them.


Cars have been able to figure out when they're speeding for a while, thanks to GPS as well as traffic sign recognition, and they've also been able to pump the brakes automatically when needed.

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Having a computer automatically slow down a car in response to posted speed limits, therefore, was not really a question of technical feasibility for some time—but mandating it has been a question of political will.

That political will has materialized in the European Union, and starting July 7 all new cars sold in the EU will feature intelligent speed assistance (ISA) systems.

The systems themselves have been working their way into newly introduced models of cars starting in 2022, so quite a few new cars on the road already feature them. The July 2024 regulation extends that mandate to all new vehicles being manufactured for sale in the EU.

"The objective is to protect Europeans against traffic accidents, poor air quality and climate change, empower them with new mobility solutions that match their changing needs, and defend the competitiveness of European industry," the European Commission said in a statement.

The systems themselves operate through traffic sign recognition, as well as navigation systems.

There will be four ways in which ISA systems will work to slow the vehicle down, and it will be up to the manufacturers to pick which one they want to use. The EU regulations permit a system that can use a cascaded acoustic warning, a cascaded vibrating warning, an accelerator pedal with haptic feedback, or a speed control function in which the speed of the vehicle will be gradually reduced.

As you've noticed, the first two options may not quite compel any actual changes in speed on the part of the vehicle, and that's by design. They will also have to be short in duration not to annoy the driver. The latter two options will also have ways for drivers to easily override the warnings, with extra pressure on the pedal by the driver in the case of haptic feedback neutralizing the pushback from the pedal.

"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 European Commission adds.

The main question, of course, is if these systems are so easy to ignore, will they have a measurable effect on the rate of traffic accidents that are linked to speeding, or will they become another system that will be easy to tune out, like pop-up ads?

Some skeptics as well as proponents of the new regulation fear that the methods of compelling greater adherence to the speed limit could be too minimal to be effective, but annoying enough to prompt a political backlash against similar safety and traffic-calming measures, such as speed cameras.

Other critics view it as the latest example of intrusive surveillance measures that will grow more restrictive over time, or that could eventually be paired with V2X technology to create geofenced zones where there might not be ways for drivers to circumvent speed limiters in their cars at all. The measures that follow, therefore, could be even more restrictive, with this one being merely the first step toward in-car surveillance tech.

In the US, memories of the 55-mph speed limit introduced in 1973, and the backlash to it, are still relatively fresh, even though some surveillance-based speed control methods such as cameras have not become as ubiquitous stateside as they are in Europe.

One of the longer-term fears stateside, however, is that GPS-based speed monitoring could eventually be paired with car insurance policies on a wider scale, thereby making cars without such systems more expensive to insure.

Will speed limiters such as these be effective in reducing instances of speeding, or will they mostly annoy drivers? Let us know what you think.