The introduction of speed limiters into cars could be a dream or a nightmare, depending on your stance and belief in people, along with your trust in technology.
A helpful gauge to assist the driver, a measure of your progress, a safety device, a policing unit, a tattletale staring at your. The progression of cars is rarely judged by one single facet. A new engine may be a redevelopment of the old with better hoses, more compression, and better airflow, or be a ground up rebuild. Alone it could change the character of the car to a degree, but if a poorly mated gearbox or underwhelming brakes are still present then it's efforts are diluted to the point of mere brochure figures. The same can go for uncomfortable seats re-trimmed only to still be poorly offset and offering little help against a chaffing seatbelt. Infotainments, wheels, suspension, the list goes on. No single aspect of an entire car would usually get concentrated attention, the few exceptions usually are styling cues, think the spoiler on the back of a Lamborghini Countach.
Who would have thought that one of the greatest single changes to a car was hiding in plain view all this time. Speedometers come in many different shapes and sizes and wind over in different ways. There are those that were designed by the sort of people that find an Ikea coffee table the height of extravagance with there block numbers, black and white dials and little else. Then there are those that were made to look like the cufflinks on an Armani suit, with a hint towards something much more exciting should you start to play around with it. Now it appears that behind all those designers will be a layer of policing, because we all know that humans aren't tracked, watched and digitised into a profiles enough, oh wait, maybe Orwell was on to something. The coin flips both ways, one constant thorn in the side of motoring enthusiasts is the ever burdening image that all manics on the road should be thrown in with us and when they blast through a school zone at triple the speed limit they do so because they are car crazed racing driver wannabes. The fact that irresponsible humans with little regards for other people's lives exist is enough for some people to run for government control. The trouble is, those so wilful to break laws and play with innocent lives are rarely deterred by more laws and more regulations. Owning a gun and walking around a city with it is illegal but it doesn't stop a bank robber or gangster hell bent on revenge. The sad truth is that when people want answers they rarely consider the problem holistically, and governments are either too afraid or not smart enough to deliver any other answer. Any real car enthusiast knows that the deserted lanes of sparsely populated area with nothing but fields of sheep are the place to enjoy their passion, and even then only when weather and circumstances permit reasonably safe. It doesn't take a genius to realise that losing it out there is only likely to result in embarrassment and hurting yourself, much like juggling with knives in the garden, don't do it in a shopping centre, but at home, do what you like.
Where does this take us to?
A mandatory speed limiter will be introduced in cars as of 2022, although at inception this system, much like lane assist, will be offered with a manual override, it is believed that a few years later the overrides will be removed. Breaching the system may result in the car needing software updates but could also be viewed by third parties, and one of them could be the police. This is a dream come true for enforcement fines, no more random speed cameras hoping to catch someone out as they drive at 67mph along a deserted country road with both hands on the wheel and their phone locked in the glovebox. Finally they can just send out fines on notification of a broken speed limit. Now, we may be getting ahead of ourselves, but the option is being left open. For those of you believing the idea is brilliant there are two hurdles, first is the belief that the rule breakers will just stop and finally do as they are told. This may work, introducing laws has made positive change to societies, although it is usually by liberalising rights rather than increasing survellience, but we all feel safer in city centres crammed full of CCTV camera. This brings us on to the second hurdle. They may not stop an actual crime taking place, but it is good to think that the mugger may be caught rather than just get away with it. The same can be said for speed devices on cars, overriding the system, or defeating the digital control will mean that someone can still do 150mph on the M1, but they will likely find a letter in the post arrive two weeks later asking for them to hand over their license, if they had one in the first place. Errors are the nuisance that anyone who has ever interacted with technology will know of and heard the long advised action of turn it off and on again. No doubt we will soon see a court battle as someone fights an erroneous error that claims their Nissan Leaf was doing 186mph along Oxford Street at 2pm in the afternoon, but we can cross that bridge when we come to it.
Now to be fair, most people will just be wanting others to slow down in residential areas and city centres, something that even the most ardent petrol head with 5w-30 running through their veins would agree on. Seeing drivers in a built up residential street where children are playing and noticing they have launched over the first speed bump in their efforts to impress a crowd with the throttle pedal of a 1.4 litre inline four is just dangerous. So lets call it that, dangerous driving, unfortunately speed enforcement won't stop that. Looking at the statistics one of the growing problems on the road appears to be driver inattention or distraction, or to put it a better way, people driving whilst on social media because they can't be away from their addiction to swiping even when it endangers lives.
There is no doubt that mandating speed limits will have a desired effect, if people crash at exactly 30mph as opposed to 33 or 34mph the forces are incrementally reduced. The problem is, just like the lane keep assist function, it doesn't actually mean less crashes, it simply means safer ones. An oddity really, for nearly a century humans have made more and more complex decisions as our lives sped up, and now we are deciding that some people in an unassuming office building have created a program that is always better than us. I wonder what lane keep assist would have done when during heavy snowfall the rear of my car stepped out on me as a fairly new driver and I decided to turn the wheel to even out the slide and straighten back up. I wasn't anymore talented than anyone else, I was simply following what my driving instructor had told me to do when during a lesson a torrential downpour caused us to briefly aquaplane. Would the system have shut down control, assumed I was a maniac and aimed me straight into a barrier, or worse the traffic around me? Maybe, maybe not. When overtaking a lorry up a hill with a mile of visibility and getting past with more than twenty seconds to spare before oncoming traffic passed be a safer manouver if restricted to only move ten miles an hour faster than the slow moving lorry rather than twenty, leaving you in the path of oncoming traffic for longer. Perhaps we should stay behind the lorry, never leave our lane and let a full driver assist control our journey so we can drift away staring at the latest celebrity news or a picture of our mother in-laws new shoes.
Cars have been getting safer since inception, however we may now be on a course to lay down our ability and ceed it to technology. A giant leap in our connection with it, would we allow a long piece of computer code to decide what to do with us in A+E, or get on a plane that has no human trained to fly it because the computer will do it all. The truth is humans make mistakes, bad decisions and say stupid things, but ask the people in the majority of marriages that end in divorce if they would change it, not have the children, the honeymoon in Cancun and the argument that made them see life isn't so simple. Some would, others wouldn't but if a computer could tell them it would end in disaster, would they still do it?
Traffic accidents are tragic and they shouldn't be downplayed, if limiting speed will in fact save countless lives then maybe we should herald their arrival. On the other hand, if dangerous drivers can still kill at pedestrian by mounting the pavement as they stare at the giant screen in their dashboard are we really making progress by limiting the control a driver has. Years ago motoring programs concentrating on the 'safe operation of a motor vehicle' made the point that speed is one of your safety features, controlling it should be a constant decision process. Today we rarely need to think about applying more speed down a hill so we can make it back up the other side, but we may do something similar for efficiency. Then think of the law abiding motorist fighting the system to let him go faster as he realises he has made a terrible miscalculation thinking he can complete his overtake before the corner only to see headlight now in his path, will they say this is progress.
The idiots of today doing nearly triple digits on roads that pedestrians cross and that will have got a company remove all the limitations will be just a deadly as today. Will they be stopped because the masses have ceded control of what they deem safe to a technological overlord , or will they continue to drive dangerously. The truth is, humans don't need limitations, they need common decency and respect for one another, technology can't solve that but better enforcement by people, or police, that are told to forget about cars that limp over the speed limit and instead aim at people driving dangerously. That would make a safer future for us all.