A method that can prevent you breaking the speed limit is just around the corner
Whether you would probably consider it a great gift from the gods or the complete opposite, a process that can prevent you breaking the speed limit is just nearby. The technology is known as Intelligent Speed Adaptation or ISA for short.
How exactly does ISA work?
Satnavs can already place you on a map, and are aware of the name of the road you will be on, and it’s easy for them to be programmed to be aware of speed limit.
Once the car knows where it is and what the local speed limit is then all that’s needed is a backlink to the throttle so the car won’t go beyond the limit.
What could ISA do?
There are three alternative alternatives for ISA:
Advisory – a straightforward device that tells you the rate limit, and offers a warning when you go over the limit
Controlling – hard wired into the car so that it becomes impossible to get rid of the speed limit
Discretionary – a half-way-house, where you can switch between ‘controlling’ and ‘advisory’, or even switch the device off altogether
Would fitting be mandatory?
Not currently, but if all worked well it would be supposed to be, for new cars, at some time in the future.
The government would be most unlikely to require existing cars to be retro-fitted with such a device.
We would expect some businesses to fit ISA to their fleet cars or vans, possibly in advisory form. Then car manufacturers might start offering ‘advisory’ or ‘discretionary’ systems as optional extras.
If effective and popular on an optional basis then – as was the truth with air bags, ABS brakes and electronic stability control – manufacturers might then start fitting ISA as standard, initially on more expensive models.
Car manufacturers are unlikely to fit ‘controlling’ systems unless there were legislation to make them do so.
Such legislation couldn’t be a British decision alone as vehicle standards are regulated from Brussels. However, most new car technologies that prove great at road safety terms have eventually become compulsory.
Euro NCAP to encourage fitment of ISA
ISA systems are positioned to become more widely available.
From January 2013 ISA systems that meet Euro NCAP’s requirements will be awarded points that contribute towards the car’s overall ‘Safety Assist’ rating.
Euro NCAP’s new protocols will award points for advisory and discretionary ISA systems depending on how they determine the local speed limit and how they communicate that information to the driver.
This is not the first time that Euro NCAP has helped drive the market by awarding points for safety technologies not required by law – Both Electronic Stability Control (which will have to be fitted as standard to all new cars from 2014) and seatbelt reminders are already widely available for many years as a direct result of Euro NCAP encouragement.
What may go wrong?
An ISA system could apply the incorrect speed limit, cutting motorway traffic to 30mph because of a close minor road for example, or allowing an auto on the minor road to do motorway speeds,. That’s one possibility.
Opponents will state that the merest chance of this ought to be enough to avoid the system ever taking on the roads.
Supporters on the other hand would argue that the motorway driver should be able to quickly notice the use of the lower limit and turn the system off, while traffic on the minor road would not have to accelerate, and also the driver will have to make a conscious decision to do so.
ISA would only ever stop you exceeding the limit, or warn you from the maximum speed limit, therefore you would still need to continue to be careful about your speed and be sure that it is ideal for the conditions and local situation.
How could ISA affect driving?
ISA could make overtaking difficult, and prevent accelerating from a misjudged situation sometimes. But it might be argued that drivers would just have to be sure you switch the device off when overtaking.
Similarly there could be problems if the speed limit changed to a lower speed during an overtaking manoeuvre, though again the system could possibly be turned off, and you also probably shouldn’t be attempting to overtake in such circumstances anyway.
It can be possible that ISA could lead to ‘bunches’ of cars, all travelling at the same speed, with a bit of drivers depressing the accelerator to the floor and driving just as fast as the car would let them. Most who have taken part in experiments with ISA systems have not done this.
What exactly do drivers think?
Much depends upon what sort of product is being proposed. In an AA Populus poll of 17,481 respondents, 43% thought the compulsory introduction of ‘controlling’ ISA could be acceptable compared to 49% who didn’t. So, drivers don’t want to buy forced about them.
If one was fitted on their car, but another survey showed that 61% of drivers said they would work with a device to prevent them exceeding the speed limit. This suggests greater support for discretionary ISA. The AA also gets calls from members wanting to know how they can get hold of this technique.
On balance, a voluntary, discretionary or advisory system probably has safety and practical benefits as it can remind us of speed limits and assist in preventing accidents and penalty points.
A mandatory, ‘controlling’ system would be a step too far as the human element of judgement must always govern our safe driving. Possibly the best answer is to allow time, and the market, to take its course as has happened with other in-car systems.