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UK to Mandate Speed Limiters on All New Cars from July 2024

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Starting July 7, 2024, all new cars sold in the UK will be required to have speed limiters installed. This new mandate aims to keep vehicles within UK speed limits and enhance road safety, aligning with similar regulations across Europe.

Implementation Details

The regulation, as per the European Commission’s 2019/2044 directive, mandates that any new cars launching or already launched in the European market must be fitted with an Intelligent Speed Assist (ISA) by the specified date. This includes unregistered cars currently on sale, which will need retrofitting before they can be sold.

Despite Brexit, the UK will adopt these rules to standardize car manufacturing processes across different markets and further road safety measures. Speed limiters are also seen as a step forward in the development of self-driving cars in the UK.

What is a Speed Limiter?

A speed limiter is a safety device that prevents vehicles from exceeding a pre-set speed limit. Unlike cruise control, which maintains a consistent speed, a speed limiter allows for normal acceleration and deceleration but ensures the vehicle does not surpass the set speed limit. The system acts as a warning mechanism rather than a fatigue prevention tool.

How Do Speed Limiters Work?

The ISA technology uses GPS data and traffic-sign recognition cameras to determine the maximum allowed speed in an area. It then limits the engine’s power and the vehicle’s speed accordingly. Drivers receive haptic, audio, and visual warnings if they exceed the speed limit. Although the system can be overridden by pressing hard on the accelerator, it reactivates every time the car starts.

Manufacturers like Citroen, Ford, Honda, Jaguar, Peugeot, Renault, and Volvo have already begun including factory-fitted ISAs in some models. The Renault Group has gone further by capping the top speed of all new Renault and Citroen cars at 112 mph for added safety. The ISA mandate applies to all new cars, vans, trucks, and buses, but not to motorcycles due to the need for technology adaptation.

Concerns and Challenges

Various associations have raised concerns about the potential annoyance of continuous warning signals for speeding. Manufacturers have four options for alerting drivers:

  1. Gently pushing the driver’s foot back.
  2. Automatically reducing propulsion power, with an easy override option.
  3. Flashing visual signals followed by audio cues if ignored.
  4. A combination of visual and vibrating pedal signals.

The effectiveness of these alerts will be assessed in December 2025 using anonymous data on ISA activation and deactivation instances.

Other concerns include the accuracy of current speed restrictor technology. Traffic-sign recognition systems can be misled by unclear or obscured road signs, and GPS-based systems can sometimes glitch, leading to incorrect speed limits being applied.

Despite these issues, the European Commission emphasizes that drivers remain responsible for adhering to traffic rules, with the ISA serving as a driver-assistance system to prevent momentary lapses of concentration.

Can You Remove a Speed Limiter?

While the current regulation allows speed limiters to be switched off, they re-enable every time the car starts. Modifying cars to remove speed limiters can be dangerous and illegal if it leads to exceeding legal speed limits.

Reducing Road Traffic Accidents

Speed limiters are expected to significantly reduce road accidents. The European Transport Safety Council (ETSC) predicts a 30% reduction in collisions, and the European Commission estimates that mandatory speed limiters and other safety measures could prevent 140,000 serious road injuries by 2038, aiming for zero road deaths by 2050.

In the UK, the national speed limit is 70 mph on motorways and dual carriageways, and 60 mph on single carriageways. Built-up areas have a top speed limit of 30 mph. Many vehicles can exceed these limits, highlighting the importance of speed limiters in maintaining legal speeds.

A 2022 report by Gov.uk recorded 1,711 fatalities and 29,742 serious injuries from road collisions, underscoring the need for enhanced road safety measures.

Additional Safety Measures

The new EU regulations also mandate other safety equipment, including autonomous emergency braking, data loggers, emergency stop signals, driver fatigue detection systems, lane keep assist, built-in breathalyzers, and reversing sensors or cameras. Many of these features are already standard in new cars sold in the UK.

These comprehensive measures are designed to improve road safety and align UK vehicle standards with those across Europe, despite Brexit.

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