Like it or not (we’re guessing you probably don’t), more and more driver assistance tech is infiltrating new cars. Some of it is undeniably helpful. Most of it is annoying and makes new cars more expensive.
Now, every new car launched in the EU must by law have some form of intelligent speed limiter. This is technology that reads speed limit signs and knows where you are from the sat nav data. It can then notify the driver of a speed limit breach or even automatically rein the car in to match the limit. When you approach a town, for example, the car could decide that you’re going too quickly and slow you down or trigger warnings that tell you to reduce speed. The law doesn’t apply to the UK – yet – but we expect cars bound for our shores will feature this tech anyway.
It’s not a piece of future vapourware; this technology is available on an increasing number of cars, such as the Volkswagen ID.3. Currently, such a feature needs to be turned on by the driver, but the law change proposes that these systems will be automatically on whenever the car is started, forcing the driver to disable it.
The new law mandates that every car launched from now on has to have the speed limiter technology fitted, while cars currently on sale need to have it included from July 2024.
For the immediate future at least, you’ll be able to deactivate it – like you can with start/stop and auto emergency braking. There’ll either be a button on the dashboard (or, more likely, through a gazillion sub menus in a touchscreen) to turn it off, or you’ll be able to override the limiter with a heavy press of the accelerator.
Hopefully this is the case for a long time to come, as this tech is far from error-proof. We’ve had Fords that have misread signs, and Volkswagens with software glitches that switch from MPH to KPH whenever they fancy. Roads without signposts pose a problem, as do signs that are damaged or obscured.
The European Transport Safety Council (ETSC) says the mandatory roll-out of intelligent speed assistance will cut road deaths by a fifth. The EU is targeting zero road deaths by 2050.
Is this the end of driving as we know it? Well, not yet, but more driver assistance is coming. Soon, cars will need a black box, driver fatigue detection and even a built-in breathalyser under the EU’s tightening rules.