All cars in EU to have speed-limiting technology by 2022

LONDON • You will have no choice but to slow down.

The European Union (EU) plans to require speed-limiting and emergency braking technology in all new car models starting in 2022, along with dozens of other technical features to improve road safety, its Parliament announced on Tuesday.

The speed-limiting technology, called intelligent speed assistance, uses video cameras, satellite location data or both to detect when drivers go over the speed limit.

It curbs their ability to speed up further by restricting engine power.

Drivers can override the system, depending on the model, by pressing harder on the gas pedal, for example.

The technology could reduce fatalities on the EU's roads by 20 per cent, a statement from the European Parliament said.

The rules would also require a recorder that collects vehicle data around the time of a road accident.

The rules have been approved at the committee stage. To become official, they require confirmation from both the full European Parliament and ministers from all member states.

"There have only been a handful of moments in the last 50 years that could be described as big leaps forward for road safety in Europe," Mr Antonio Avenoso, executive director of the European Transport Safety Council, a non-governmental organisation, said.

If the planned measures are approved, he added, they could prevent 25,000 deaths within 15 years.

Speed limits in the EU vary in member nations and efforts to curtail accidents and pollution have proved divisive.

Germany does not set a top speed on part of its storied Autobahn and recently rejected a speed limit on the entire network after popular outrage at the proposal.

France has different limits for bad and good weather on the same roads. A recent reduction of the speed limit on two-lane roads in part fuelled anger of the "Yellow Vest" movement and, in January, protesters, angry about traffic fines, knocked out more than half the country's speed camera network.

But the EU has enacted rules that have helped improve road safety across the bloc.

In 1998, it set common crash-test standards and, in 2006, made wearing seat belts mandatory in all cars.

Despite those rules and others, 25,300 people died and 135,000 were seriously injured on EU roads in 2017, with speeding cited as a major cause.

To improve safety, "you can design roads in certain ways to limit speed, enforce speed limits and use vehicle technology", Mr Dudley Curtis, a spokesman for the European Transport Safety Council, said.

He added that the newly proposed rules were just one aspect of improving safety.

Mr Curtis noted that this was not new technology that would be imposed by the EU.

Some carmakers have already been selling new models fitted with it. The latest Ford models available in Europe have a system that, when enabled, use a camera to recognise traffic signs and set the maximum speed according to local limits.

Volvo said this month that starting next year, it would limit top speed on all its cars at 180kmh.

It cited data from American regulators showing that 25 per cent of traffic deaths in the United States in 2017 had been caused by speeding.

"As humans, we all understand the dangers with snakes, spiders and heights. With speeds, not so much," Mr Jan Ivarsson, a safety expert with Volvo, said.

"People often drive too fast in a given traffic situation and have poor speed adaptation in relation to that traffic situation and their own capabilities as a driver."

Despite EU-wide safety rules, inequalities among member states persist.

According to statistics, death rates on roads were more than twice as high in Bulgaria and Romania, among the bloc's poorest members, compared with some of the wealthiest nations, including Britain, the Netherlands and Sweden.

"One of the factors that divide Europe is an economic one," said Mr Curtis. "Newer cars come to the richer countries first. There are also issues to do with infrastructure."

Romania, for example, has few highways, which are generally considered among the safest areas of road transport.

"Driver behaviour and amount of money available for enforcement are other factors," he said.

The rules would apply to all new models starting in May 2022 and existing models on sale starting in May 2024. They will not require retrofitting cars sold before 2022.

Britain's Department for Transport said it would follow the rules despite the country's planned withdrawal from the EU.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 30, 2019, with the headline 'All cars in EU to have speed-limiting technology by 2022'. Subscribe