/ 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.

Mike says:
30 March 2019

Speed limiting is theoretically a good idea as long as the system can be overridden if required. However before long insurers will penalise those who do not have the system by increasing premiums and Government will use the introduction and onward use of ‘safety features’ as a cudgel to introduce even more restrictions and taxes on motorists. There are 25 M cars on the roads that do not have these systems and will not be upgraded and pose more risk when operating with strictly controlled vehicles.

Ideal in 30mph areas and perhaps on some single carriageway A-roads and rural roads. Not such a good idea on motorways and dual carriageway A-roads. What is really needed is technology to prevent tailgating which is far too common here in NE Scotland.

Excellent idea. Let’s remember over 400 people a year are killed by people driving too fast. I suspect speed was also a factor in many of the other 1200+ killed.

I don’t support this. It seems to be yet another gadget which removes responsibility from drivers who are consequently less likely to keep an eye on their speed and the current speed limit. Many speed limit signs are obscured (by other traffic or foliage), and I suspect that many drivers will rely on this technology to keep them legal and safe without paying due attention themselves. Human error causes many accidents, but human observation and reaction saves many more!

I use the speed limiter on my car almost all the time, and find it valuable, but find it annoying (and sometimes distracting) having to click the control on the steering wheel 10 or more times every time I get to a different speed limit, so will find a GPS system to automnatically change it very useful.
There are so many main roads nowadays where speed limits below the national limit have been introduced because they are statistically accident blackspots. This means that I cannot simply drive to the road conditions, but have to keep checking the speedometer as well, unless I use the speed limiter.
My only worry is whether the GPS systems will be accurate enough to cope with situations like that at Alrewas, where the A38 dual carriageway with a 70mph limit runs parallel to a local residential road with a 30mph limit and separated by only a couple of feet and a wire fence? Equally can they be able to cope with smart motorways, where the speed limits can change every few hundred yards, and be different for traffic in one direction from the other?

I already have technology on my Honda Civic dashboard that tells me the local speed limit. This works most of the time and whilst not limiting my speed it is a useful check if I have missed a sign. My concern is that this technology is not yet reliable enough as false readings do occur.There was one occassion in bright sunlight when 30mph was misread as 80mph. There have also been times when it shows the national speed limit, not as a number but showing there is no limit, when there is. It will also require the speed sign to be fully visible and not overgrown to work. High quality road maintenance of signs is not always carried out.

Keith Harrison says:
30 March 2019

The figures for accidents caused by speeding are not really accurate as the accident could have happened anyway, also I don’t condone drink driving but the figures again aren’t true as who knows if the accident would or wouldn’t have happened if no alcohol was involved.

My main concern is what happens when the tech fails? I used to work in R&D on safety critical avionic systems and this question is the main one we had to ask when designing a system. The hoops that we had to go through to demonstrate that the design was ‘safe’ were pretty impressive. I put ‘safe’ in inverted comments, by the way, because nothing can be made 100% safe, the best arrangement that can be achieved is one that reduces the probability of critical failure to an acceptable figure. The cost of achieving acceptably safe systems was pretty impressive, both in terms of certification and resultant hardware/software and I do have concerns about the ability of the automotive industry’s ability to achieve acceptable system integrity within its cost constraints.

Perhaps I should answer a question that is often asked: why not have a system that fails to a safe condition? The problem here is defining what is meant by a safe condition, quite often there isn’t one and I suspect that this would be the case with speed limiting systems. Simply switching the system off is not an answer because it would leave the driver in the unexpected situation of having to take manual control and the reaction time of deciding what to do and doing it may be too long to avoid causing a collision.

I have to say that these comments are even more relevant to the situation with self driving cars!

Phil says:
30 March 2019

Society has become so risk averse that 100% safety and reliability is demanded and expected. The reality is that automated systems really have only to be better than the humans they replace and how difficult is that?

I suppose it depends on what is meant by ‘better than’. Many of the human failings result in relatively minor consequences but I fear that this would not be the case with automated systems. Looking at the situation at present, the critical human failure rate in terms of failures per vehicle hour is, I suspect, very low and most probably lower than would be achieved by an automated system. For an electronic system a critical failure rate of 1 per million operating hours is actually quite difficult to demonstrate. Even at this level, with a million vehicles on the road at any one time this would mean one critical failure per hour.

Phil says:
2 April 2019

Some 26,624 people were killed or seriously injured on British roads in 2017 of which 1,793 died. Suggests a critical failure every twenty minutes.

I can remember that, not very many years ago, the annual death toll was more like 3600.

So it is good to see that effective safety improvements have been made.

Obviously we should not then rest on our laurels.

Phil says:
2 April 2019

No indeed especially since this is up from 1,713 in 2013 (austerity?) but a long way from the peacetime peak of 7,985 in 1966 which is horrendous when you consider how much less traffic there was then.

It is difficult to establish the human failure rates from just injury or death statistics without knowing a few additional facts such as the vehicle hours for the period and the number of actual incidents in which the injuries/deaths occurred. It is not unusual for a single incident to result in multiple injuries/ deaths, particularly in motorway multi vehicle incidents. Of more immediate concern is that I know just how difficult it is to achieve a 1 per million operating hours figure, duplicated systems with independent failure detection being some of the techniques needed. I very much doubt that automotive cost models would bear such expenditure!

We are steadily handing our lives over to hardware/software control and governance. Due to complexity and budget constraints, most software has a few flaws and inconveniences at best and can make fatal mistakes at worst. My GPS alerts me to speed zones and that works for me. I would prefer not to add more controls to my life.

Alan Clarke says:
30 March 2019

My sat nav tells me what the local speed limit is, and if I want to limit my speed on a long motorway drive, I can set the cruise control.
The issue with the Boeing 737 Max should have taught us the folly of letting tech take control away from the person in charge of the vehicle.
I predict this will cause a significant drop in new car sales until means become available to override or disconnect it.

I use a speed limiter on most of my jurneys and find it helpful most of the time. When it is law, more attention must be paid to the siting of speed limit signs and keeping them easiily read ( no obstructed by foliage etc) and also making sure that signs related to a side road restriction do not interfere with perceived speed limit on the main road.

At the end of the day if you rely on a computer to tell you the maximum speed then idiots will drive at the maximum even if the road conditions indicate otherwise. Watch out for lots of accidents due to ice and the excuse being the computer told me the limit was 50!

Although i no longer drive (ex motorbike rider) i can see there being a problem with speed restrictors, as there might come a time when you might need that extra burst of speed to avoid a dificult situation,especially if you find there isn’t time to break to avoid a collision but can only accelerate out of the way.

I have a reasonably new vehicle which has the capability to set the desired speed which it does very well, it controls the speed uphill and also limits the speed downhill, I use it on a regular basis.
I would be happy if the system was controlled externally, i.e. speed limits.
I make sure I am aware of the surrounding and my foot is over the brake just in case.
The system also has the benefit of making the vehicle very economical which is good for my pocket and also the environment.
The system is easily over ride able which I consider essential for safety.

Absolutely essential piece of equipment for all male drivers up to age 3O, after which the prefrontal cortex has fully matured and testosterone levels have peaked (or should have)!!!

For the doubters who didn’t agree my 30/03/19 comment, please refer to the following:

brake.org.uk – young drivers
Young car drivers (2013 data)

While I am not a doubter, Beryl, I have to observe that some horrific collisions are committed by elderly drivers as well [vide HRH the DoE]. I gave up driving at seventy because I found I was getting too tired and losing concentration after about 90 minutes. I am glad I had the perspicacity to recognise that before something awful happened.

There is no doubt your prefrontal cortex has served you well over the years John and has enabled you to make insightful and rational decisions as and when needed.

Although I still consider myself fit to drive and have answered an honest “no” to all of the boxes on the recent DVLA form, I limit my driving to short distances and the local vicinity only. Night driving and long distant motorway driving are now avoided at all costs.

It’s a travesty when some elderly drivers will put others lives at risk rather than accept they are no longer fit to drive and, barring accidents, it sometimes takes another to tell them its time to quit and use public transport instead.

Trouble is, statistically the accident rate is still higher amongst 17 – 21 year olds, but when one occurs involving an elderly person it is usually disproportionately reported and highlighted by the media, especially if you happen to be someone of note.

Just a guess, but it seems to me that young drivers involved in fatal accidents are often on their own or with mates – and under the influence or excitement of something – and they hit a solid obstacle due to losing control; at speed that is usually fatal. Older drivers might be driving safely at a suitable speed but suffer a medical emergency that affects their driving so they plough into a bus shelter or oncoming traffic; they might also doze off or lose concentration in other ways and end up on the wrong side of a dual carriageway or pressing the accelerator by mistake.

In a way the media comment on Prince Philip has probably drawn welcome attention to senile capacity and attitudes and made people question whether there should be some independent testing of people’s driving competence in later life.

In my case, giving up driving coincided with a move from a rural area to a city where there is excellent public transport and a house within easy walking distance of most amenities. We still have a car but don’t go far, and the benefit : cost ratio is declining sharply now. Unfortunately most of the decent new housing sought by retired people is off the public transport network and away from civilised amenities so running a car until an advanced age is imperative for many.

I appreciate that many pensioners cannot afford a car so their choices in the way they live are severely constrained; indirectly it does make for a safer world for the rest of us but at considerable inconvenience and hardship for themselves. We know a few nonagenarians near us and when we can we take them out locally or deliver their shopping but our ability to continue doing so is not unlimited and they will become housebound. Maybe the fear of that is what impels people to keep driving longer than they should [or need to in the case of people with chauffeurs].

In defence of HRH, some information that seems not to have been publicised very much does seem to paint a slightly different picture. The road in question was a known accident black spot with several accidents taking place, including three fatal in the preceding three years and the particular junction had been reported by a traffic engineer as dangerous particularly for drivers approaching from the east – the direction from which HRH was approaching. No doubt he was at fault but there were factors that meant it may not have been simply his age.

That’s a fair point, Anthony. I think low winter sunshine was another possible contributory factor, and we don’t know whether the other vehicle involved in the collision was being driven properly in accordance with the prevailing conditions. For whatever reason, no charges were brought.

What about people who drive too slowly? e.g. 50 mph on motorways which slows everyone down as lorries have to overtake at 56 mph. This builds frustration in other drivers.

I suspect that, in the end, the only people who will really object are the ones who habitually drive too fast.

I think you will find that it is not only habitual speeders who will have objections. For many reasons, GPS alone is not sufficient to provide the speed limit decisions and the system will have to augmented by cameras used to detect speed limit signs. My car is fitted with such a camera system although it is only there as warning. On one particular road that I use regularly the 20 limit sign in a side road is at such an angle that it is picked up by the camera in my car as I pass. I suspect drivers following me could well be surprised if I made a sudden speed reduction for no apparent reason as well as being annoyed by me carrying on at 20 for the following mile until there is the next speed sign! I also use some roads where there are 20 speed limits in the vicinity of schools but no signs at the end of the sections so, again, I would be limited to 20 for the next few miles. Such problems could be overcome by switching the system off but if this becomes necessary for many journeys then this defeats the objective of the system.

Jonathan Larmour says:
31 March 2019

This is a recipe for people just keeping their foot down and not thinking about what is an *appropriate* speed for the environment and conditions. More automation invites drivers to turn their brains off and lose observation skills. And the systems will inevitably make mistakes, and many drivers won’t be paying enough attention any more to notice.

It’s so easy to blame the drivers there (and the manufacturers will disavow their own liability, you can be sure), but really if a system, however well-intentioned, has the potential to cause this, it is utter foolishness to make it mandatory. I predict an increase in road deaths caused by these systems that will be inappropriately blamed on the drivers.

The most useful thing about the changes really will be the black box. By recording drivers’ actions, bad drivers will learn that if they cause an accident there will be evidence. Now that is a far better way to improve driving standards without putting safety at risk.

Dorothy H says:
31 March 2019

It is high time the selfish speeders were stopped rather than risking others. There is good reason for speed limits, and keeping to them will save money in the NHS, something we desperately need to do.
Many people cannot make reasonable progress in good conditions, and cannot drive between two lines or indicate eg when coming off a roundabout. They either need some driving lessons or get off the road. Older drivers would do everyone a favour if they would take a RoSPA or IAM test for mature drivers like I did.
Going too slowly may delay a doctor on a call, and reduce delivery drivers’ paltry earnings.
The roads would be more efficient, save petrol and reduce climate change if everyone drove at the same speed in a lane, there would be no need for much wasteful overtaking and braking.

Michael says:
31 March 2019

Speed limit recognition is currently too inaccurate to be of any use. My 2017 BMW 335d GT has a speed limit recognition feature, and displays the speed limit in a head-up display. I am told it works from the SatNav, from the mapping data loaded onto the car’s system (which is updated regularly) and from current satellite download. My BMW dealer says that BMW subscribe to a supplier for the data so they have no responsibility for any inaccuracy. In fact it is very unreliable and I have turned it off in case it lures me into breaking a speed limit and getting a ticket.

There are several roads that I regularly use where it shows the wrong speed limit, and here are some examples within about a 5 mile radius. Firstly, A1114 south out of Chelmsford is a dual carriageway (70 limit) that can be joined either from a fly-over, when the car shows a 70 limit, or from a roundabout when it shows a 60 limit. The A132 west of South Woodham Ferrers has always been a single carriageway but it shows a 70 limit for part of the length. Several 30s show as 40 and vice versa, for instance the Maldon Road from the A1114 to the A12. Saving grace it that when it is wrong on a specific road, as it often is, it is consistently wrong. Having said all that, it does work well on variable speed limit motorways, presumably from the satellite datastream.

On the subject of 30s and 40s, there is far too much inconsistency within every council area and across council areas. For instance in the Chelmsford district, the main road through Sandon is 40 and that is a narrow, bendy road with no pavements, houses on both sides and a blind single width bridge, whereas 2 miles away the B1418 through the middle of Bicknacre is wider and straighter with fewer houses and a pavement and a 30 limit. Leighhams Lane near Bicknacre is very narrow, with houses on both sides and no pavement, with a dangerous bend where some youngsters were killed in a car accident a few years ago, and that has a 60 limit! Madness.

Oh, I just remembered that I borrowed a brand new VW Tiguan a year or so ago and it showed the A12 between Chelmsford and Colchester to have an 80 limit. How could VW make that be possible in this country? It didn’t matter since the road is too dangerously potholed to travel at anything like that speed.