/ Motoring

UK to adopt speed limiting tech: do you support it?

The Department for Transport has today said that speed limiting tech, which will become mandatory for all vehicles sold in Europe from 2022, will apply to the UK. Do you support it?

New rules have been provisionally agreed by the EU that will see the introduction of GPS/Intelligent Speed Assistance (ISA) technology that can send the local speed limit to a car’s dashboard to help enforce speed limits. ISA uses speed sign-recognition video cameras to do this.

From 2022, this will apply to the UK. And yes, that’s despite Brexit.

It’s worth noting that this won’t be an enforcement; the driver will be able to override the system by pressing the accelerator. Think of it more as a supportive guide – manoeuvres such as overtaking shouldn’t be affected.

Been hit with an undeserved speeding ticket? Here’s what to do

Are speed limiters a good idea?

Motoring rules, regulation and etiquette always generate a lot of discussion here on Which? Conversation, and it’s no different at Which? HQ itself, so I asked the rest of our Convo team for their views. Here are their takes:

“Have you ever driven on a motorway at 86mph in a Smart car? This is the speed my car was limited to and, frankly, I would never have wanted to go any faster. In fact, I don’t think I needed to go any faster.

332 people died on UK roads in 2017 because of someone either breaking the speed limit of being judged to be driving too fast for the conditions. Is getting somewhere a tiny bit faster really worth it?

It can be so easy to break the speed limit on the motorway.  I had a five-year break from driving recently. When I got back behind the wheel I had got over the ‘need to speed’. But that’s the thing – unless you are an emergency service you don’t need to speed. You just want to”

“I welcome safer roads and I’m keen to see ways in which technology will help us get there. I do not, however, welcome systems that might confuse the driver or limit their ability to make choices to navigate the road ahead.

I have an older car where on occasion (and sometimes by accident) I make use of the speed limiter. This has enabled me to reduce the risk of fines from temporary roadworks and average speed checks, but has done nothing to reduce the danger from the traffic around me (many of whom aren’t using limiters).

Many people treat driving as a right – a casual task that requires no thought – and their driving certainly reflects this. Would it really do any good to introduce another system that the driver doesn’t have to give their full attention to?

Driving is a huge responsibility – you, as a human, bear responsibility for all of the life around you. I think if we truly want safer roads, the solution is holding the people responsible to account, and not looking to the tech to solve this for us.

Or, you know, just more frequent and more reliable public transport at an affordable cost. Were this available, I’d happily recycle the car”

So now you have Jon and Abby’s views, what are yours? Do you support the introduction of speed limiting technology? Do you think this is the answer for safer roads?

Let us know your thoughts on the changes and we’ll feature your comments alongside Jon and Abby’s.

Paul Buckingham says:
25 April 2019

External driving control is definitely the way forward. Despite the emotional thought that the human is the best operator, psychological studies ‘prove’ that we get distracted or focus so strongly on what is most important to us that we make errors or poor decisions. Aircraft have used auto-pilot systems for decades and they certainly fall out of the sky with fatal consequences if they go wrong. The biggest cause of air accidents is still where the human is in control and makes a poor decision. Why not trust the same advances for restricting our speed?
Poor driving is not just about outright speed it’s also about inappropriate acceleration. Even at its least dangerous, the noise and shock factor alone is frightening to sensitive people (like children, aged people and animals) who might react to put themselves in harms way.
The most road deaths are in areas of low speed limits (urban and housing conurbations) where even 30mph is too fast for the condition. The victim is almost exclusively pedestrians.
Modern vehicles are more capable of higher speeds and acceleration than ever before but with better brakes, tyres and suspension. It’s how we use these advantages that is of concern.
Every day when I drive my children to school and then on to my place of work, I see behaviour that is just selfish. People feel entitled to stop on the zig-zag lines or in the school entrance “because it’s only a moment” and their child is late. I wonder, if their own child is killed or maimed in a road accident, would they be screaming for the perpetrator to be vilified? It always seems to be OK for me to transgress the law but everyone else needs to obey it. The reality is that in a world of ever increasing urgency we get sucked into reacting without enough thought.
For me, the technology needs to take account of ALL the conditions like the traffic congestion level, the weather and the pedestrian count. Modern technology can do all this right now. It will be very expensive to implement full traffic control systems so do we want to value lives or not.
For those who don’t want to give control over to the machine, I’d just say that where we try to wrest control back from the automatic system, it’s almost always the case the human hasn’t been concentrating and makes an instant reactive decision that in hindsight proves to be less than ideal. Do we really want to go back to foot pump or finger push windscreen washers, hand winding windows, hand cranked wipers, crank handle engine starting systems, hand signals for indicating our intentions etc. etc? No of course we don’t. Just a year or two after fully autonomous vehicle use and we’ll wonder why we ever trusted manual control.
Not to mention the environmental impact – but that’s another debate

This whole business of speed is a mixture of many, many elements churning round. Not least of these is the variable nature of the human population here who range from laid back and tolerant to impatient and always in a hurry. Then there is the government and local councils who believe that they have to cater for the lowest common ability in order to avoid accidents. Add to that the increasing desire to reduce speeds in order to reduce road pollution and the general trend is to hinder the progress on the road by any number of devices and make driving less pleasurable and more restrictive. Motorists are constantly being told what they can not do when it has appeared safe to do it before and, crucially, all this is imposed by those in charge without any consultation with those on the roads. The motorist feels disenfranchised and unwelcome. Another problem that we have to face is that our roads are not fit for purpose. There are many more of us on them and they can not cope with the demand. Queues are a regular nightmare. This has been the case for some while and there has always been an argument (for and against) about spending on roads in order to fill them up and create a demand for more spending on roads.

So the road system is a hostile environment and that breeds impatience and misunderstanding. Some look at a clear stretch of motorway and see no reason why they shouldn’t proceed at 80plus mph. Most cars are quiet and refined at that speed. No one is being killed and they get there, where ever that is, quicker. Miles of empty cones and a fifty limit means that, more than once I have suffered, with lorries, inches from my back window, and at seventy on the motorway I am one of the slowest there and have to slow down behind a slower vehicle while things speed past me next door. No explanation is given for pollution control, so a fifty limit is ignored and some “don’t drive responsibly.” The 20 limit is now becoming fashionable and that means a second gear crawl through urban areas. Most ignore that and, once again I get tailgated ad-nauseum. Not recognising an unobvious hazard, without any signage, creates the feeling of being restricted unnecessarily, especially when there are times that something is signed and doesn’t appear.
There are two lots of us on the road. I simply do what I’m told because that’s what I’ve been told to do. The other lot decide for themselves what’s safe and drive to the perceived road conditions ahead rather than the instructions on the signs. Not many get caught doing it so they carry on.

Since the radio has broadcast road traffic reports, very, very few end without a collision to avoid and tailbacks associated with it. That means a lot bent metal on the road every day. Perhaps it was always thus, and we didn’t hear about it, but I am amazed at that there are so many crashes these days. Who is right; those who project the nanny state or those who think we are being hard done by? Is there happy medium? Probably not, since only one set of people control the road usage and the rest of us drive under their dictatorship. Climate change and vehicle use will alter dramatically as will our ability to do what we do now. Enjoy motoring while you can it is under threat and can only decrease in future.

As we have seen from the two crashes of Boeing 737-800s, electronic “safety” measures are not necessarily a good idea. I have a device on my car which warns me when I exceed a speed that I have to set manually. I don’t often use it because the setting button has been put in a very awkward place, behind the steering wheel (It must have been done by an arts and design graduate rather than an engineer!). I would welcome technology that warns me if I exceed the speed limit, but I do not want it controlling the car. Similarly, something that tells me that I am getting too close to the car in front is useful, but I don’t want it actually applying the brakes. However, I would like to be able to set it to keep a safe distance from the car in front, cancelled by touching the brakes or accelerator. There are times when a burst of speed is necessary to avoid an accident.

I agree with the gentleman who said that drivers should take responsibility to take into account the conditions. Sometimes, it is only safe to travel at 15 – 20 mph in a 30 mph area, particularly in rural areas. I also agree that speed limits are proliferating. We don’t need a 50mph stretch, followed by a 40mph stretch before a 30mph area. We just need a sign that says “30mph in 300 yards”

Carolyn says:
1 May 2019

Surely it would be better and more efficient to have less powerful engines than all these gadgets.

AnthonyP says:
1 May 2019

A low powered car driven stupidly is just a likely to kill someone as a higher powered one. If the vehicle is capable of keeping up with the traffic on a motorway then it is capable of exceeding the speed limit by a large margin in other areas.

P. Wall says:
2 May 2019

Here in Hampshire the public road I live on is narrow and has no kerbs, no drains no pavements and no speed limit signs. It is well used for access to the church school etc.and heavily used by delivery vehicles and waste collection trucks etc. Houses of various sizes are frequent on both sides of the lane.
The road surface is mostly dust, loose gravel and very well potholed. Maintenance is infrequent and consists of pouring loose gravel in the worst of the holes and compacting it a bit. There are a few street lights fixed to wooden poles but these are to be switched off at night. Sat Nav units show the speed limit of the road to be 60 mph which is clearly utterly ridiculous. The highway authority says the sat navs are wrong although other minor roads in the area show the same. There is no chance that any self drive cars would find their way through the gravel and potholes let alone guess where the highway edges are or what the speed limit is.

Totally opposed to another “big brother” take over. They decide who does what? Slowly but assuredly our individual rights are being eroded. This is just another patent example. If you break the law, you should pay the price but NOT at the cost of civil liberty.

The AA pointed out that there are times – when overtaking, for example – when temporarily exceeding the speed limit may be safer. Others have said that proposed ‘black boxes’ that would record a vehicle’s speed, among other things, amount to Big Brother surveillance. So is this surveillance and intrusion justified given the potential benefits?
First we’ll have to consider what this technology does to the Drivers behavior, or rather how it affects him.System safety
Second, problem is the safety of such tech. Technologically, this does not seem too challenging, but the critical thing will be to identify scenarios that might confuse a system and which could lead to inappropriate decisions.

I question why it is necessary to overtake if traffic is moving at or just below the speed limit. Many cars, perhaps half the total number, are not capable of performing a long overtake sufficiently above 70 mph to complete the manoeuvre safely and quickly. While the AA’s statement might be theoretically correct I feel it is wrong to give the impression that such driving is acceptable and can be readily justified.

I can understand how drivers of the more powerful cars can feel frustrated and impatient to get ahead of lesser vehicles, and they feel very safe in their superior well-protected motors, it is not a commendable driving technique in my opinion.

Elsewhere we are discussing sustainable living. Driving over-powered vehicles and using excess speed on the roads need to be brought into consideration.

I often find the vehicle I have overtaken draws up behind, or alongside, at the traffic lights.

AnthonyP says:
20 August 2019

There are occasions where exceeding the speed limit is necessary to make the overtaking manoeuvre safe. On a recent trip there was a car doing 35-40 mph in a 50 limit area with a lengthy line of frustrated drivers following, fortunately for me I was going in the opposite direction.. The nature of the road meant that exceeding the limit would have been necessary for a safe overtake.

It should also be noted that speedometers are not precise instruments. The road speed can be significantly lower than that indicated. In a previous post I pointed out that the road speed can be as low as 61.4 mph for an indicated 70. So the driver in the ‘superior well protected motor’ could simply have a more accurate speedometer! As it so happens I drive a Mercedes but am assiduous about sticking to speed limits. I find that most of the overtaking me, often very much over the limit, are John Ward’s ‘lesser vehicles’!

Simply using GPS together with a database of speed limit areas would not be sufficient for automatic control of a car’s speed. Such databases can never be sufficiently responsive to changes in limits, especially in the case where they are temporary in nature. There will then be the need for cars to have the ability to read road signs. My car has such a system but it just displays the limit rather than takes action. It is surprising how often it gives false indications, usually caused by poorly sited limit signs in side roads. To have cars making sudden and unexpected changes in speed if these indications were to be acted on by an automatic system, would be quite disconcerting to following drivers. If there is to be an introduction of automatic speed control systems then there will be a need to ensure that limit signs are placed so that they do not cause this type of misreading. I suspect that this would be an expensive process.

Patience in driving is a virtue. It can be frustrating to be behind a slow vehicle but the speed limit is often there for a purpose and should be adhered to. Just wait for the right opportunity. A more powerful car has the advantage as it can simply get past in less time than a small-engined car. My perception is that smaller cars with younger drivers like to show how their driving technique can out-wit others. Maybe that is just a myth.

In the situation described by Anthony on a 50 mph road and a car going at 35-40 mph, which vehicle in the tail behind it has the right to start overtaking?

On a road that is speed-limited for safety reasons it is surely best to be patient.

I agree that best practice is for drivers to drive up to the speed limit and that slower moving vehicles can be frustrating at times, but who said any particular journey has to be completed within a specific period of time?

DerekP says:
21 August 2019

Although the AA may claim that a “safer” overtaking manoeuvre would result from exceeding the speed limit, that does not alter the fact that any such manoeuvre would be illegal.

As motorists – or as consumers – I don’t think we should be allowed to decide which laws we will obey and which ones we can disobey.

I agree with Derek’s last sentence.

If temporarily exceeding the speed limit is a safety measure, is this because a driver has put themselves in a risky situation?

We have an interesting situation here in Snowdonia. Being a major tourist destination we have a lot of visitors, often from the US and therefore driving hire cars, and many from China and India. Add these to the local mix of UK visitors ‘out for a few days’ and some just wanting to see the scenery, large and apparently organised biker groups, average age 50+ and riding machines that cost more than many cars, tiny cars dragging enormous caravans on the annual outing, lorries that seem to have escaped from Australian road trains, tractors dragging massively laden mobile bins, cows and sheep who’ve escaped and decided to go on an adventure and finally hordes of cyclists, all competing for space on main roads which are not a huge improvement on their mediaeval forebears and which, in places, combine tight bends with widths somewhat less that the average bathroom length and you start to get the picture.

That’s only the A roads. The more adventurous decide to try the back roads or, as we residents like to call them, the (slightly) wider footpaths. Inevitably, accidents are little short of commonplace, often with fatal results.

One problem is speed limits. While it’s nice to imagine speed limits exist for a reason the reality is they really don’t. If they did, they’d be far more intelligent than they are. The A470 – the major trunk road between North and South Wales – is an excellent example, the A5 linking Holyhead with London another and finally the A55 – the dual carriageway connection between North West England and the North Wales coast, now officially one of the most dangerous roads in the UK – is the other.

All these roads depend on drivers using Roadsense; a combination of anticipation, judgement, skill and caution combined with concentration. Sadly, it would seem many that drive these roads seem to lack every one of those essential characteristics.

The last paragraph explains why we need rules. I know all here are superlative drivers with exceptional skills and know how to use these on the road; the trouble is….the others.

We seem obsessed with making minor changes to speed limits. Roads in our area frequently change from derestricted to 50m/h, then 40m/h, back to 50 …….. With limited repeaters it can be difficult sometimes to keep track of the speed limit.

I’d prefer to see more consistency and fewer changes.

On the current Curmudgeonmobile the car reads the speed limit signs and displays the same as as an icon in colour in the centre of the instrument panel. If you exceed the speed limit the icon gently flashes to warn you . I had previously been against limiters because they constrained options and made driving a pain but have warmed to this latest innovation, the gentle nature of the warning seems to make you want to keep it below the flash point. Since having this car I am sure that it has influenced me beneficially. Initially I was concerned that the car might misread a sign if they were not clean and correctly sited but I have never caught it giving a wrong reading , most impressed , all I need now is the same speed icon projected onto the rear screen for the benefit of the tailgaters

Gerald Carter says:
22 September 2019

I use the motorway quite frequently, and I travel at no more than 60mph, because it’s comfortable, and I have time to plan my actions and deal with those of other drivers. The lunatics and suicide pilots that pass me at well over the lawful speed limit, are quite frankly staggering.