/ 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.

Richard Bacon says:
31 March 2019

I have no problem with a speed limiter – I often use mine – but I think that speedometers should be made accurate instead of being inaccurate and (usually) set to show a higher speed than true.
If we are all travelling along at our limited speeds they should at least all be the same.
I also have a problem with the ISA system using camera’s to get the active limit from road signs. Signs are often obscured by foliage, some are just missing and others are rotated by local comedians to show the opposite sense of a speed change. Currently, most people know what the limit should be and drive accordingly, but computers could have a majority driving at the wrong speed with consequent confusion, rage and accidents.

Just a point Richard any idea how you stop the tyres wearing ?
The set speeds for speedometer usage are set by gears (older vehicles) or an algorithm (modern vehicles with ECU (Black box) on computation of all the parameters… and then the blasted tyres wear !
As they becoming smaller the circumference of the wheel and tyres change …and the indicated speed becomes incorrect. If a reliable GPS can be achieved nationwide (or international if on the continent) then that could be used which actually measures speed by location variation which is far more accurate, but only for cars with GPS sender…the way forward ?

Phil says:
31 March 2019

Change in speed reading due to tyre wear is less than 2%.

Tyre pressure will also affect speedometer accuracy.

Maybe we should slow down a little as the tyres become worn.

Presumably if we use our speedometer then we do. Around 1.3% when the tyres need changing in my car. To 29.6 m/h in a 30 limit (if the speedo is accurate). a little more in a car with smaller wheels.

I use the speedometer and don’t worry about the fact that it reads slightly less than the sat nav. I’ve not noticed being at the head of a queue of cars, and I do check.

We seem to be covering old ground here. As I wrote near the top of this conversation, “Speedometers need to continue to be linked to wheel revolutions, because otherwise they wouldn’t work in tunnels etc, but speedometers should automatically recalibrate using a GPS signal whenever it is available to ensure that they are always 100% accurate when tyres wear. It’s very simple technology to implement“.

Cars are expensive enough without having more electronics that can go wrong.

Yes I too am absolutely sick to death of all this unnecessary computerised stuff in modern cars. It is all thought up by young designers who believe that nobody knows how to drive these days. Rubbish automatic dimming rear view mirrors, (Don’t dim when you need them dim), electric brake switches, (so that you don’t know if the are on or off just by looking, automatic windscreen wipers that come on, (if you are lucky). I could go on and on with this.
Give me a car of yesteryear for enjoyable driving and self-decision making. The world of car design has gone. They all look so alike and so ugly these days.

Hawkeye Pierce says:
7 April 2019

Manufacturers do fit speedometers which overstate the speed at which you are travelling. i.e. At 30mph on your speedo, you are actually travelling at 27-28mph. Manufacturers do not want to be held responsible for you getting a ticket because you were travelling at the speed shown on your speedometer. Test this using a sat-nav which shows your speed (not all do) or download an app to your phone which can. You will be surprised how many cars go slower than indicated by the speedometer.

This is regulated by the EU:
“Regulation No 39 of the Economic Commission for Europe of the United Nations (UN/ECE) — Uniform provisions concerning the approval of vehicles with regard to the speedometer equipment including its installation

5.3. The speed indicated shall not be less than the true speed of the vehicle. At the test speeds specified in paragraph 5.2.5 above, there shall be the following relationship between the speed displayed (V₁) and the true speed (V₂). 0 ≤ (V₁ – V₂) ≤ 0,1 V₂ + 4 km/h

That 4km/h factor has quite an effect. I have always been under the impression that the UK regulation was that the actual speed should be within +0% to -10% of the speedometer reading. With the factor added in, the worst case is -12% at 70mph, -17% at 30 and -20% at 20. Someone travelling at an indicated 70 could actually be doing just 61.4 mph.

I used to sell Trucks for a living (which have a mandatory top speed limiter always in place) and when demonstrating to a driver when I showed them the OPTIONAL driver variable speed limiter their first reaction was " I can't accept a limiter, my job is hard enough already and I need to go as fast as possible !
However when I spoke to the drivers a month after they had been driving the vehicle….THEY LOVED IT. A comment often made was they saw it as a protection for their licence…it made the truck so much easier to drive.
Between brain dead car drivers not allowing enough space and cutting in, and kamikaze pedestrians with a death wish and not forgetting the "Ninja" cyclists who insist on putting themselves in the blind spot of HGVs on the inside, having a driver variable speed limiter helped the drivers adapt to ever changing road speed limits, whilst remaining legal.
I think the sensible operating sequence helped greatly, the driver would drive the vehicle to the speed limit and press a button and then depress the throttle pedal to the floor using it as a foot rest, however the throttle still allowed variable control by slowing. If the road conditions changed and the limit was too fast the driver lifts his foot on the throttle which allows the vehicle to slow down as normal, or he would brake if more urgent slowing was required. When the road was clear the driver would again apply full throttle and the truck would accelerate back up to the original speed limit set, when the speed limit changed the driver would brake or accelerate the truck up to that speed and again reselect the new limit and carry on…it's so easy.
Having sold hundreds of trucks and discussed it with many drivers who used the system on a daily basis, the number of drivers who said they needed to accelerate rapidly to get out of trouble was limited to a couple of instances. When discussed with the drivers they admitted prior better road reading by themselves would have eliminated even those, as it was they simply pressed the variable speed limiter button and accelerated out of the problem…not hard is it ?
On todays congested roads a sensible system which can sense a vehicle speed and send a signal to a vehicles ECU (black box) will help maintain a more even traffic flow which in itself reduce possible accident spots.
It's different, moan if you like but there are no obvious downsides that cannot be technically sorted…it's the future.

Chris Nabavi says:
31 March 2019

The speed limit on motorways has been the same now for something like 50 years. Meanwhile cars have got much safer with better braking systems etc. I’m not convinced that speed ITSELF is the cause of many accidents – what is very dangerous is driving too close to the car in front at speed and weaving in and out between lanes. We’ve seen many instances of what would perhaps have been a fairly minor crash, had it not been for the fact that half a dozen other cars have piled into the original crash – all driving too close to stop in time. I believe that driving at 80 or 90 mph on an open motorway in a modern well maintained car, with little other traffic about, is MUCH safer than driving at 60 mph, 6 feet from the car in front. (I used to live in Germany where motorway speeds are higher.)

Therefore, what I would like to see is mandatory speed-dependent minimum distances between cars with cameras to enforce this. In-car sensors to measure the distance to the car in front and to warn the driver would be technically easy and cheap. I recognise that there is a potential problem when another car pulls into what was previously a safe gap between two cars and any enforcement system would need to allow for this, but with multiple cameras, that shouldn’t be too hard.

I agree with you .My car flashes a warning when I am too close (purchased a Skoda 2013) I always try and leave a safe gap but on motorways and duel carriageways I am forced to keep breaking as vehicles fill that space.I use cruise control whenever possible ,just wish I had had the option for predictive cruise control.For folks that do not know,this is were the driver sets a safe distance and speed ,your car automatically adjusts to this.

Such systems do exist on many cars, including the one that I drive. They use radar to monitor the gap to the car in front, usually on the basis of time rather than distance because the latter is different for different speeds – I can adjust mine to be between 1 and 2 seconds.

Mike Starkie says:
31 March 2019

I was done for speeding about 2 years ago on a dual carriageway and had to attend a speed awareness course. Much to my surprise I enjoyed it and found it informative and interesting. So when I came out I thought to myself “that’s it, no more speeding” and I have stuck to speed limits ever since. Initially it seemed a little irksome, but now I am used to it I cannot see why I bothered to blast away just to save a minute or two. Even on a long journey it makes very little difference and you arrive much more relaxed. I use cruise control a lot and it saves me worrying about any speed traps. What is the point of rushing around all the time?

There will still be a lot of vehicles on the road without the speed limiter.Many Trucks are able to do over 60 and do.
I have driven two vehicles with a speed limiters and felt very vulnerable when over taking .eg The approaching vehicle is going much faster than you thought and there is need to increase your speed rapidly to avoid possible deaths you put your foot down and then the engine stops increasing it’s speed .Two choices hope or brake neither are acceptable.It’s frightening.
I always thought this should be the tech fitted to vehicles until I drove one.
I can understand the reasoning in built up areas.

One interesting but possibly not yet widely known factor is that, with so-called smart motorways, speed limits are reduced at certain times of the day to prevent excessive vehicle emissions. Apparently, this is quite common where motorways run through densely populated areas.

Neil Cumins says:
1 April 2019

If every single vehicle in the UK was mandated to follow speed limits on the same day, this system might work. If not, speed-limited vehicles will become mobile chicanes for those vehicles which aren’t, causing endless tailgating, road rage, rear-end collisions and sharp braking which (in a long enough convoy of vehicles) causes traffic jams even on motorways. Speeds of 90mph seem to be common among the drivers of German saloons on motorways, and a car limited to 70 will very quickly become a hazard to itself and to others.

It would be lovely to live in a world where everyone respects everyone else’s space and driving speed, but that’s not human nature. Mass flouting of motorway speed limits (which were arbitrarily set half a century ago as a temporary measure during heavy fog in an age of drum brakes) won’t be solved by this act of bureaucracy.

Why make cars , Lorries, Vans, Motor Cycles that can travel at speeds above the speed limits ? The lunatics on our congested roads and motorways that are speeding and race one another in powerful cars and those in smaller high speed cars spoil it for rest of the law abiding public.
Bring on the highbred vehicles limited to the speed limit that the vehicle is travelling on ie 20 mph in Towns and by Schools 50 mph on Ordinary Roads and 60 mph on Motorways.
Technology can help us stop the appalling driving now being experienced by law abiding drivers , we see every day drivers breaking the law , no seat belts being worn, aggressive drivers travelling much to close to other drivers, drivers on their telephones while driving, and drivers staying in the central lane of the motorway when the nearside lane is empty , one could go on and on.

Older drivers must undergo a full medical and mental assessment when applying for a driving licence at 70 years of age.

Here is a video showing how the speed limiting technology will work: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SoZLrZTnUGs As is made clear, it can be turned off by the driver.

We are not ready for enforced speed limiters. Almost all record you as travelling faster than you are actually going. Also there are too many instances of speed limits in places where they are not needed; how many times have you been limited to 50mph or 40mph in roadworks only to discover that there are no roadworks…just a pile of traffic cones at the side of the road.

From New Scientist:

“All you need to fool Tesla’s autopilot into changing lane is a handful of stickers.

Tesla’s autopilot uses cameras to detect lane markings, so that it can position itself in the middle of the road and automatically change lanes when required. A team at Keen Security Labs, run by Chinese technology giant Tencent, managed to confuse the system onboard a Tesla Model S with just three stickers placed on the road.

The car’s autopilot system incorrectly classified the stickers, which were placed over road markings to make a jagged, rather than straight-edged. This caused the Tesla to move onto the wrong side of the road.

The hack works because Tesla’s front-facing camera looks for markings on the road, but doesn’t distinguish easily from standardised markings and imperfections or blips on the road.”

An increasing number of cars have speed limiters or cruise control and people pay extra for these features, which can help save them from being fined for speeding. Having found out a little about what we can expect in 2022, I’m not going to lose any sleep about it, though it’s not going to stop drivers overriding the system if they wish to.

I’m all for a simple speed limiter that limits all cars to, say, 80mph so that the police find it easier to catch stolen vehicles on the run. Having read much of the interesting discussion here about what is really intended for speed limiters, I’m really worried about the ability of any car control relying on signs or satellites to get it right. I’ve had to get limit signs rotated back to face the correct way three times in the past two years and I know one road where there is no sign at all between 30 and 40 zones.
On the other hand, I (carefully) use my cruise control whenever I can as it allows me to concentrate on safe driving without having to look down to monitor my speed all the time. I agree with other writers that you do have to be ever aware that you might creep up to close to the can in front or travel too fast for the road conditions.

David Lines says:
4 April 2019

The aircraft industry has for many years been at the forefront of providing electronic systems to assist pilots. These range from automated navigation and landing systems to devices which take control if the aircraft is detected to be flying close to particular, defined limits.
In the last 6 months 346 people have died in two Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft as the result of such systems malfunctioning. Such systems are claimed to provide assistance rather than take control, yet pilots have been unable to override them.
Is the driving public so gullible as to believe that speed-limiting and other automotive ‘assistance’ systems will not on occasion be the cause of deaths? Where is the evidence that the deaths so caused will be fewer that those imagined to be saved?

This is an area in which I have some knowledge having spent my career in R&D for safety critical avionic systems. Generally speaking this type of system is very safe – most aircraft landing these days, especially in conditions of poor visibility, are carried out by auto-land systems and I am not aware of any critical problems arising from their use. The recent Boeing problem is astonishing and has all the hallmarks of a system designed as a panic reaction to an unexpected aerodynamic problem and very poorly thought out. Quite how a system like this could have got through any normal certification programme beats me. I have just heard on the news that a preliminary assessment of the Ethiopian event indicated that the crew took all the appropriate actions to disengage the system, but to no effect.

What worries me about automotive systems is that I don’t believe the cost constraints in this sector will allow the production of systems with adequate integrity. To gain the integrity necessary for safety critical avionic systems it is usual to have duplex or triplex arrangements, I simply cannot visualise such techniques fitting in with the desire to keep costs down for competitive reasons.

Nick Wickham says:
4 April 2019

There is so much bad and dangerous driving in the south east of the Uk, particular around London. Cyclists and motorcyclists being the worst affected. This will not be solved by speed limiters. Speed limiters are easy and can be used to argue the government is doing something about road dangers and keep the cost away from the public purse. The reality is they’ve cut police patrols and driver training. roads and motorways are almost entirely policed by speed cameras and people are driving dangerously, often below the speed limit. Where’s the campaign to observe the keep left rules on montorways? Where’s the patrol car pulling people over for weaving or understating? Let’s focus on safety rather than making vehicles more expensive

David says:
6 April 2019

I see that manoeuvres such as overtaking ‘shouldn’t’ be affected… this is my only concern. I often see drivers who appear to go faster than their level of competence allows them to do safely… and in general, on motorways, dual carriageways etc. there is no good reason to exceed the limits. However, on single lane roads you need to be able to pass quickly, to spend as little time as possible on the ‘wrong’ side of the road… so, for a brief moment when you need quick acceleration, I think exceeding the limit should be permitted. I’m not sure how the technical side of this is to be achieved.
It would be no bad thing if average speeds over a journey were monitored, so that insane ‘white van men’ who appear to think they are immortal, could be reined in a bit. Some of them consistently exceed the limits.

I don’t support the mandatory limit. This will make most road users less productive, less efficient, and put up costs.
The most useful way to reduce danger to the public would be to limit the speed of the rogue driver, without impacting everyone, and the economy. Where I live, it is now an everyday occurrence for some idiot to overtake a car on a speed limited street (20mph nearly everywhere) by passing the wrong side of a bollard. This is the guy to constrain.

Mandatory speed limiting will also limit the enjoyment I get from being a member of our local SpeedWatch, but I strongly support the move.
It would be nice if there were mandatory limits on the volume of sound that vehicles emit. I regularly hear vehicles on the nearest A road, more than two miles away.

In the meantime I will do my best to deny you enjoyment, Steve. 😉

I agree about noisy vehicles. If it’s of any consolation, modification of exhaust systems can make vehicles less powerful, though the owners may not realise.

It is not about power, it’s about perception I believe. Some cars (American I understand) have sound systems in the car to give the driver an artificial engine sound to please their boy racer ears. I used to stick a bit of card on my bike to catch the spokes for the same reason.

If the standards of driving in the UK improved then these would not be needed.
I have recently returned from driving in Belgium, Holland & Germany and they all drive better than the majority of UK driver’s!
You approach a car that’s driving slower than you! They appreciate you want to pass them, so they imediately pull over as soon as possible! Here in the UK, you come up behind an other (at 70mph or above at your choice) car who is doing 68mph passing a car doing 65mph. The car doing 68 has passed the car doing 65, but there’s another car 1/4 of a mile in front also doing 65,but does the car doing 68, pull over to let you past? Like hell do they! They will sit in the outside lane preventing your progress. If the speed limit is 70mph, then it must be up to the individual if they wish to break the law (and be honest, who of us hasn’t done 80mph+ when conditions dictate?)
Yes we all hate the speed racers who do 100mph along the 30mph sea front!
So limit the speed to 40 in a 30 limit and to 90 on a motorway, you then have your own choice of, do I want to take the risk of a speeding fine? Whilst stopping reckless abanderment?

Regrettably, if the driver doing 68 (by the way, it’s likely that his speedo is reading 70mph) did pull over then when it came up behind the car doing 65 and tried to get back into the outside lane to overtake, the cars already in there would close up to make this difficult!

Graeme, I’m afraid I think you may be assuming that, because it is illegal to drive at over 70mph, that you have a legal right to make progress at 70mph, irrespective of road conditions, including the presence of other traffic.

AnthonyL says:
24 April 2019

With over 40 years in IT and much time in engineering, plus over 50 years of driving experience I have a healthy distrust of computer systems, their ability to cope with failure modes and the naive way in which users trust them. Even highly “professional” designs as witnessed by the 737MAX MCAS can go terribly wrong. We’re not yet clever enough to get the systems right, their security right, and user understanding right. If we were there would be little need for consumer magazines such as Which?!

I suspect that heads will roll both at Boeing and at the FAA for the MCAS problem. The system has all the indications of a panic response to a problem without much thought being given to potential problems. Under normal situations the qualification procedure should have picked up any flight critical issues and appropriate action taken to mitigate them. It is very rare for there to be systematic problems of the variety suffered by the MCAS, I can’t actually think of another example. Given that virtually all commercial aircraft flying rely heavily on safety critical avionic systems – auto pilot, auto landing, fly by wire etc – the lack of problems reflects well on the design and qualification processes for these systems. My concern with critical automotive systems is that the design and qualification processes adopted may leave something to be desired in a market that is so dominated cost.