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Mandatory Speed Limiters - Coming Soon

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It’s a fast-paced world and between them, Volvo and the European Union are seeking to slow it down.

Switching attentions from protracted and painful Brexit negotiations, the EU this month announced plans to introduce continental speed limiters. Little did they know that Volvo had beaten them to the punch. Sort of.

The upshot of this two-pronged assault will be a significant reduction in the number of road fatalities. At least that’s the expectation, and unlike the vehicles they will inevitably slow, these changes are hurtling towards us at a rate of knots.

Volvo

Indeed, Volvo plan to release a speed cap in all new models as early as next year. No longer will 155mph prove possible as a slower and altogether safer top speed of 112mph comes into play.

While similar ceilings exist in various cars to various degrees, the Swedish automakers will become the first to introduce one across its entire range. Given their penchant for protection this is not wholly surprising.

As we know Volvo are rightly lauded for their commitment to road safety and genuinely believe that by 2020 nobody will be killed or seriously harmed in one of their vehicles again.

Such confidence is well placed. Just last year their XC90 saloon was crowned the country’s safest, given no driver nor passenger had perished in one for 16 years.

Analysis conducted by Thatcham Research, an independent laboratory in Berkshire, heralded automatic braking as the difference maker. The XC90 was – they proclaimed – the safest car they had ever tested.

The upcoming speed cap is a logical next step and something President and CEO Hakan Samuelsson is busy championing.

“It’s worth doing if we can even save one life” he enthused. “We want to start a conversation about whether carmakers have the right or maybe even an obligation to install technology in cars that changes their driver’s behaviour.”

Not content with curbing boy racers, Volvo have also teased the prospect of geofencing - referring to a virtual geographic boundary defined by GPS technology. In this context it will result in cars slowing dramatically when nearing a school or hospital environment, thus lessening the chances of unwanted incidents.

Speed however is not the root of all road accidents. Sadly, intoxication and distraction have just as devastating an effect, with preventative measures far harder to come by. Unless you’re Volvo.

Yes, intriguingly, the Swedes plan to unveil ‘remedies’ to both issues at a special safety event scheduled for Gothenburg later this month. If anyone can eliminate the temptation to drink or text behind the wheel it will be them. Expect to hear lots about what they have in-store.

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EU

Volvo’s careful crusade certainly gives them a head start on their peers, as the EU move to improve safety across the region.

In an attempt to reduce some 12,000 speed related road deaths a year, the European Parliament recently passed legislation declaring Intelligent Speed Assistance mandatory.

ISA combines speed sign-recognition cameras and GPS-linked speed limit data to slow motorists down. When the situation dictates, engine fuel supply is restricted, resulting in drivers losing speed (and patience).

Being overridden in this manner is a four wheeled nightmare nightmare and the EU know it. Indeed, they are already bracing themselves for a backlash and – perhaps in a bid to soften the blow – have proposed an early compromise.

Under these terms ISA will indeed become compulsory, but drivers will have the ability to ignore or overpower it. Sure enough, a simple squeeze of the accelerator will diminish its impact while an on/off button may even provide a choice on whether to adopt it at all.

Those willing to give it a chance but less inclined to adhere to speed limits, will be met with a warning sound before fuel supply is belatedly cut.

In the wake of inevitable criticism, the EU remain both unmoved and unapologetic. European Transport Safety Council Director Antonio Avenoso predicts this, along with wider reforms we’ll touch upon shortly, will save 25,000 lives in the next 15 years. It’s a bold prediction but one sure to silence the loudest critics.

Unlike the UK equivalent, the EU parliament have reached consensus on plenty of late. The Committee on Internal Market and Consumer Protection have voted in favour of technology that enables automatic detection of pedestrians and cyclists.

Not only that but black boxes, already commonplace, are set to become standard. Significantly, this will have a knock-on effect when paired with ISA technology, as those shunning the later will have their actions recorded and insurance companies unimpressed.

Finally, a new direct vision standard for lorries and buses is upcoming. This tool will give drivers a better view of road users around them and should cut accident rates substantially.

Brexit

Brexit and just how Britain’s messy divorce concludes will have no bearing on the aforementioned changes. One of few certainties right now is the UK will continue to inherit EU motoring laws long after our withdrawal. This is only right, given the chances of manufacturers developing cars solely for the home nations are remote.

Speed limiting technology of some description has actually been in existence since the early 1900s. Only now however is its true impact set to be felt.

If slowing down cars has the same effect on road death rates, it is a compromise we can all get on board with.

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