SAFETY! SAFETY! SAFETY!
Intelligent speed assistance (ISA) systems can actively keep motorists from exceeding the speed limit by using road-sign recognition cameras and GPS-linked speed-limit technology.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is calling for all new cars to be equipped with technology designed to deter or prevent speeding. This is the NTSB’s second such recommendation in six years, signaling its growing concern over the role of speed in fatal auto accidents.
What is Intelligent Speed Assistance Technology?
Intelligent Speed Assistance, or ISA, uses GPS and sign recognition to restrict a vehicle’s speed within specified zones. Unlike traditional speed-limiting devices, ISA dynamically adjusts the vehicle’s speed based on the location of the vehicle, instead of imposing a fixed cap. ISA uses a car’s GPS location compared with a database of posted speed limits and its onboard cameras to help ensure safe and legal speeds.
Passive ISA systems caution a motorist when his or her vehicle exceeds the speed limit through visual, sound, or haptic (vibration) alerts, with the driver responsible for slowing their car or truck. Active systems include tools that make it harder but not impossible to increase the speed of a vehicle above the posted speed limit and those that electronically limit the speed of the vehicle to fully keep drivers from going over the speed limit.
“We know the key to saving lives is redundancy, which can protect all of us from human error that occurs on our roads,” remarked NTSB Chair Jennifer Homendy. “What we lack is the collective will to act on NTSB safety recommendations.”
Eliminating speeding through the implementation of a comprehensive strategy is a priority, the NTSB says. In addition to the grave statistics of speeding-related deaths and injuries, the NTSB has previously called on federal regulators to revise regulations concerning speed limit guidance and to increase the use of speed safety cameras. The NTSB has also emphasized the need to improve data, laws, and enforcement to address drug-impaired driving.
ISA Technology Already Required in Europe
As of last year, ISA technology was required for all new vehicles in Europe, according to the European Commission’s Vehicle General Safety Regulation (GSR). That law also mandates that vehicles have 90% accuracy for ISA systems. Moreover, the GSR includes requirements for mandatory advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), including emergency automated braking systems and lane assistance technology.
In addition, Volvo recently announced its EX30 electric vehicle with Google Built-in will have a passive ISA technology. This makes it eligible for GSR certification. Google Built-in, which is also in brands such as Chevrolet, Renault, Polestar, and Honda, relies on Google Maps rather than just the vehicle’s cameras to acquire accurate speed limits. The Maps team analyzes traffic trends, gathers local data, and cross-references street view or third-party partner data, according to Google Maps product management.
The NTSB’s Recommendations
As a result of the NTSB’s research, the agency—which doesn’t have the power to make regulations—is calling on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to mandate the use of this technology moving forward. The NTSB is issuing eight new and one reiterated recommendation to the NHTSA, one new recommendation to states, and one new recommendation to manufacturers. To NHTSA, the NTSB suggests the following:
- Require ISA systems that warn a driver that their vehicle is speeding;
- Educate the public about ISA benefits;
- Update the guidelines for state highway safety programs to include identification and tracking of repeat speeding offenders;
- Create countermeasures to reduce repeat speeding offenses;
- Conduct research and develop guidelines to help states implement ISA interlock programs for repeat speeding offenders; and
- Create incentives for the adoption of ISA through, for example, the New Car Assessment Program, a recommendation repeated from a 2017 recommendation.
In addition, the NTSB asks that all 50 states, Puerto Rico, and DC implement programs to identify repeat speeding offenders and measurably reduce speeding recidivism; and that car manufacturers—including BMW, Ford, General Motors, Honda, and VW—install the technology in all new passenger vehicles that, at a minimum, warns drivers when a vehicle is speeding. Finally, to the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety, the NTSB requests that they evaluate the safety outcomes of marketing by auto manufacturers that emphasizes risky behavior, including speeding. This evaluation should compare vehicles based on engine size, power and performance and international approaches to marketing.
The NTSB has asked NHTSA to adopt ISA in the past. In 2017, the agency asked NHTSA to incentivize adoption of ISA through a New Car Assessment Program. Currently, the NHTSA says it is reviewing public comments and is expected to post a final decision on the matter before the end of the year.
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