A case for making speed limiters in cars mandatory

Those were the days: 1960. Image: Getty.

Speeding is deadly. The faster you’re going the less reaction time you have to avoid that other car, that debris in the road, that absent minded pedestrian. The UK government estimates that, each year, “excessive and inappropriate” speed kills 1,200 people and injures over 100,000 more.

This is all pretty obvious – but most people still speed. In 2011 almost half of cars monitored exceeded a 30mph speed limit, while a similar number broke the 70mph national speed limit on a motorway. Legally the limits set for particular roads are the “absolute maximum” vehicles should be travelling - yet one in two drivers are still going faster.

It all comes down to capability: unless a car is on its last wheels, it’s going to be able to drive faster than 70mph. In fact, you’d be extremely unlikely to buy a car that couldn’t go past 70 – even though there is no need for the average driver to travel this fast.

But there is a technical solution: devices that cars can be fitted with, to prevent them from breaking speed limits. Called ‘limiters’ or ‘governors’ (perhaps appealing to the East End gangster demographic), these cap the top speed of a vehicle by restricting the fuel supply to the engine.

Some larger vehicles already have mandatory limiters built in, preventing any naughtiness with the speed restrictions. If you see any vehicle with more than eight passenger seats, or any goods vehicles weighing more than 3.5 tonnes, they will have a top speed of 70mph. These limiters were brought in to reduce accidents. So why not cars, too?

Actually, as things stand, most cars already have do have speed limiters. But they’re not there to reduce the driver or other road users, though. No, existing limiters are there to protect the car: sustained high speeds can damage the engine and tires. Engines also work much less efficiently at speed, meaning more pollution and a greater environmental impact.

These inbuilt limits are set way above the highest UK national speed limit, however. There is no uniform standard, but German car manufacturers may limit the cars they produce at 155mph, while Japanese producers limit them at 112mph.

The thresholds for the speed limiter can be easily changed in modern computerised cars. Since 2012, the Ford MyKey has allowed parents to limit their kids’ speeding tendencies. Going one step further, the Nissan GT-R automatically raises the top speed when the GPS detects it has been brought onto a race track. GPS data on speed limits is already available and in use by sat-nav devices. If this technology could be coordinated, an entire country’s speed could be controlled automatically.

Yes, compulsory speed limiters would kill the £20m a year profits that the Treasury currently makes from speed cameras – but no Chancellor is going to argue against mandatory limiters if it means saving thousands of lives every year. Besides, safer roads would reduce the £470m per year spent on medical and ambulance costs for road traffic accidents. Savings would also be made in building and maintenance of speed enforcement infrastructure, such as speed bumps, chicanes and other bizarre street obstacles.

The UK led the way with the first ever speed limit in 1832. Let’s revive that streak of innovation and be the first country to require cars to be fitted with GPS speed limiters. One day, a 30mph will really mean a 30mph limit – and our roads will be safer for it.


The future is here: Register now for Barcelona’s New Economy Week

Barcelona New Economy Week (BNEW) starts this Tuesday with the goal of turning the Catalan city into the "global capital of the new economy".

BNEW runs from 6 to 9 October, with registration remaining open throughout the event, offering insight from 350 speakers on how businesses can bounce back from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. It will feature top speakers from the business sectors of real estate, logistics, digital industry, e-commerce and economic zones.

The hybrid, business-to-business event – which is taking place in physical and virtual forms – is organised by Consorci de la Zona Franca (CZFB) and will showcase the way in which Barcelona is preparing for the post-Covid world and the "new economy". It is the city’s first big business event of the year and aims to help revitalise and restart the local economy.

“BNEW will be the first great event for the economy’s global recovery that will allow the redesigning of the productive fabric,” says Pere Navarro, state special delegate at CZFB. “It is an honour to have the participation of renowned professionals and attendees from all around the world.

“As we are not in a position to do a proper ‘in person’ fair, we decided to adapt by creating a disruptive and useful event in this way to relaunch the economy.”

The conference will encompass five interconnected events incorporating real estate, logistics, digital industry, e-commerce and economic zones. More than 8,000 professionals from 91 countries from all over the globe will take part virtually. A further 1,000 delegates are expected to attend the five events in person. Over 200 speakers will take part physically, while the rest will give their talks via a digital platform especially created for the unique event. An advanced digital networking platform – using artificial intelligence – will cross-reference the data of all those registered to offer a large number of contacts and directly connect supply with demand.

The conference will also be simultaneously broadcast in high-quality streaming on six channels, one for each of the five interconnected events and an additional stream showcasing Barcelona’s culture and gastronomy.

BNEW will take place in three venues in the city: Estació de França, Casa Seat and Movistar Centre. All are open, digital spaces committed to the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda. Estació de França will host the BNEW Logistics, BNEW E-commerce and BNEW Real Estate events, while Casa Seat will be home to the BNEW Economic Zones event, and the Movistar Centre will host the BNEW Digital Industry.

Some 36 companies are sponsoring BNEW, and 52 start-up companies will take part and present their highly innovative products and services. A further 128 firms will participate in BVillage, a kind of virtual stand where they can show their products and schedule meetings with potential clients.

Highlight sessions will include: "the era of humankind toward the fifth industrial revolution," by Marc Vidal, a digital transformation expert; "rational optimism," by Luca Lazzarini, a commercial communications specialist; and "future smart cities’ challenges and opportunities," by Alicia Asín, a leading voice on artificial intelligence. Sandra Pina will also talk about how sustainability is transforming us, Jorge Alonso on the humane future of cities and Pilar Jericó on how to face changes in the post-Covid era.

BNEW is described as a new way of developing your know-how, expanding your networks and promoting innovation and talent.

“Networking is always one of the main attractions of the events, so to carry it out in this innovative way at BNEW – with the high international profile it boasts – is a great opportunity for companies,” says Blanca Sorigué, managing director of CZFB.

Readers can register for BNEW for free via this link using the discount code BNEWFREE.