While Americans have an image of Europe as the place of autobahns with unlimited speeds, if a new proposal by the European Commission’s Mobility and Transport Department is approved, all cars on the continent could be fitted with devices that limit top speed to 70 miles per hour. Cars would possibly be equipped with cameras that would read speed limit signs on roads and apply the brakes if the legal limit is exceeded. The goal is to reduce the 30,000 annual traffic deaths in Europe by a third. The regulations would not just apply to new cars sold in Europe. Used cars would have to be retrofitted.
The British government told the Daily Mail that it was opposed to the proposed regulations. Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin is described as having “erupted” at the news and said the move would violate motorists’ freedom. A source within the government said concerning McLoughlin’s instructions to the UK’s representatives in Brussels, “This has Big Brother written all over it and is exactly the sort of thing that gets people’s backs up about Brussels. The Commission wanted his views ahead of plans to publish the proposals this autumn. He made it very clear what those views were.”
The proposed regulation goes by the acronym ISA, for Intelligent Speed Adaptation and it could be implemented using GPS data or the above mentioned cameras. Two less extreme options to automatically slowing the car would be posting a dashboard warning to the driver, and allowing the driver to disable automatic speed limiting. An EU spokesman said, “There is a currently consultation focusing on speed-limiting technology already fitted to HGVs and buses. Taking account of the results, the Commission will publish in the autumn a document by its technical experts which will no doubt refer to ISA among many other things.”