By on September 5, 2013


The European Union Commission has pushed back against reports from within the UK government that the EU was considering implementing devices in private cars that would prevent them from exceeding the speed limit, calling the reports “inaccurate beyond the limit”. In an unsigned statement on the EU’s official blog, the EU obliquely criticizing the British government and suggested that the British media deliberately misrepresented the EU’s position. The remarks denied that any such proposals or even non-binding recommendations are “in the pipeline”. The full statement is below the jump.

Reports in the press over the last day or two have suggested that the EU intends to bring forward “formal proposals this autumn” to introduce automatic speed controls -known as “Intelligent Speed Adaptation” or ISA, into cars. This is quite simply not true and the Commission had made this very clear to the journalists concerned prior to publication.
The Mail on Sunday for example (the only one of these articles online with no paywall), uses a quote from a Commission spokesman but chooses to leave out the first and most important sentence given to the paper’s reporter, which was this:

“The Commission has not tabled – and does not have in the pipeline – even a non-binding Recommendation, let alone anything more.”

The Daily Mail on Monday 2 September had the integrity to include this quote, but only at the end of an article confirming the incorrect slant that the Commission was proposing introducing the system. According to the Mail’s imaginative opening paragraph cars would be fitted with it “if Brussels bureaucrats have their way”.

The Sun On Sunday failed to use the quote above, which it had been asked to use, but stated that “motorists are set to be forced to have ‘Big Brother’ anti-speeding systems fitted in all new cars under EU rules”.

In addition to receiving the quote in writing, the Sun had been told repeatedly in a phone conversation that there was no proposal and none on the way. But it manipulated the conversation to imply that we had said we could not understand why there would be any difficulty with introducing ISA. In fact, we had said we were surprised if the UK government were upset that the Commission consulted it on research into improving road safety, given close cooperation in the past.

The Sun also made the odd statement that the “proposal is being pushed by the unelected European Commission”. Needless to say, it rarely reminds its readers that actual decisions on EU law are taken by elected Ministers and MEPs, including those from the UK.

For the record, the rest of the quote supplied said to all the journalists involved said this:

“The Commission has supported past research into ISA. There is a current stakeholder consultation and study focusing on speed limiting technology already fitted to HGVs and buses. One aspect of that is whether ISA could in the long-term be an alternative.

And a second consultation on in-vehicle safety systems in general. Taking account of the consultation 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. That is all. (NB such “staff working documents” are not adopted by the Commission at political level and have no legal status.) Nothing more is expected in the foreseeable future.

It is part of the EC’s job – because it has been mandated to do so by Member States, including the UK – to look at, promote research into and consult stakeholders about new road safety technology which might ultimately save lives. This is done in close cooperation with Member States and the UK has generally supported such efforts.”

It might indeed also seem strange to some that the UK government -if the press reports are accurate at least in that respect – apparently objects so violently to even being consulted about a range of future ways in which lives could be saved on Europe’s roads.

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29 Comments on “EU Pushes Back Against British Government & Media on “Big Brother” Speed Limiters...”

  • avatar

    This is another “ploy” by the current UK Government to give them a reason why the United Kingdom should exit the European Union, it figures in theree plans to go it alone imho!

    • 0 avatar

      It is common among european (not only UK) politicians to blame all their failures on the EU. Everyone needs an boogey man to look good.

      Anything good (even a bridge financed by the EU, or sunshine) will be prtrayed as the accomplishment of the local government. anything bad (like taxes, or snow blizzaards) will be blamed on the EU.

      It is like in the US, any local politician will blam Washington for wasteful spending, but are the first to lobby congress to keep that one subsidy they profit from.

    • 0 avatar

      There was no ply by the British Government. It is usually the unelected European commission and bureaucracy that start working groups, have discussions and then typically produce regulations. Usually they are done surreptitiously, this time they had to quick disavow the plans.

      The UK doesn`t need any other reasons to leave the EU. I assume you were probably one of those who thought the UK should have joined the Euro back in the 2000-2005 period. We know how that turned out.

  • avatar

    Hopefully this will be a lesson for the British media, TTAC and last but not least some commenters…

  • avatar

    Dammit.. I think ISA is a great idea and can’t come soon enough.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Maybe Homeland Security could monitor how fast we go and where we go to justify increases in their budget. Excessive speeding and driving more than the average person would make one suspicious of terrorist activity. Also monitor how many times individual drivers cross over to Mexico or Canada. Sell this information to marketers so that they can track where we go and use this information to market products to us. Require monitoring devices on all new cars and require owners to install these devices in their current vehicles. Guess I am being paranoid but if the Government hasn’t thought of it they will. Hopefully this never happens but with the advances in technology who knows.

    • 0 avatar

      What the… were you on the conference call last Wednesday?

      We’ll be in touch.

      • 0 avatar

        First we must start with an information campaign. This begins be commissioning academia to produce studies (well funded studies, of course) proving that speeding is a gateway crime that starts one down the road (pun intended) to terrorism.

        • 0 avatar
          Jeff S

          Yes I was on last Wednesday’s conference call and will be on next Wednesday’s call. We as a nation need to do something about chronic speeders and I am sure that the Government can budget funds to hire academia to study the link between terrorism and speeding. Excessive speeding is a gateway down the highway of terrorism. I have to search Amazon as to when the latest tracking devices will be on the market. Maybe I will get a discount for buying 3 of them or maybe if I buy 2 I will get the 3rd one free.

  • avatar

    “The Mail on Sunday for example (the only one of these articles online with no paywall)…”

    The story was also published by the Guardian and the Telegraph, both of which have no paywall. So we’re off to a bad start.

    “The Commission has not tabled – and does not have in the pipeline – even a non-binding Recommendation, let alone anything more.”

    The amount of effort that has been devoted to studying ISA, and the favorable positions taken thus far by the European Commission, make it pretty clear that a recommendation or something stronger is in the pipeline.

    And if it’s not going to be recommended, then one must ask why years of effort are being devoted to studying something that the Commission has no expectation of recommending, even though its comments about ISA thus far have been rather favorable. Are they studying it just for fun?

    “It might indeed also seem strange to some that the UK government -if the press reports are accurate at least in that respect – apparently objects so violently to even being consulted about a range of future ways in which lives could be saved on Europe’s roads.”

    It should be pretty obvious that the transport secretary objects to the entire ISA concept. How much more consultation does one need to know that he is opposed to it.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    Seems to me that one of three things are true, none of them good:

    1. This was just a hyped ploy to give British voters another reason to reject full EU membership. (Query: Is there any shortage of reasons why a country’s voters would NOT want to join the EU?)

    2. This was a trial ballon floated by someone in the EU bureaucracy. Look all good trial balloons, if the trial goes poorly the whole thing can be disavowed.

    3. This was a stealth EU plan that was designed to be hatched in secret and then sprung on member nations, fully developed, in the hope that they could be steamrollered into accepting it . . . but someone blew the plan’s cover before it was fully baked.

    Judging from the tone of the official response, an exposed nerve was touched. And, regardless of the state of development of this project, the unanswered questions — which should be answered, IMHO — is why was anyone in the Brussels even thinking about this?

    • 0 avatar

      #2 and #3 are both right. As for #1 there are no more reasons required and this would not be on the top 100 of them. Someone in the EU had been looking into this and it was exposed early on. If it hadn`t then I am sure it would have gone through the bureaucratic process and would have been harder to kill in say 5-10 years time.
      Some in the UK press do over sensationalize but there are always based on a germ of truth and the EU provides that germ.

      • 0 avatar


        I am not sure you are aware, but replacing a conspiracy theory with another (opposite) conspiracy theory does not make for a good retort.

        • 0 avatar

          What conspiracy?
          Was this idea from somewhere within the bowels of the EU? Yes. Was it ready for primetime? No. Those facts are not in question.
          So as DC Bruce said in his list of options numbers 2 and 3 are very plausible.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    The ability to monitor drivers already exists. Not a far stretch to imagine that governments use this. We already have drones, which will be used to monitor traffic. Technology makes all of our lives more open to constant surveillance. The police can scan license plate while they are cruising and many municipalities retain this information indefinitely. As for controlling the speed a vehicle goes, local municipalities make too much revenue issuing speeding citations. For me I usually adhere to the speed limits, but my problem is the monitoring of those who have control and access to this information. There is room for misuse of this information.

  • avatar

    I don’t really think there is a story here. The largest net contributor to the EU is the one with the largest car industry in Europe and probably the most powerful automobile lobby in the world. The fact that nobody is publicly discussing this “proposal” or “idea” or whatever you want to call it here in Germany means it is a complete non-starter.

    • 0 avatar
      Jeff S

      Maybe there is not a story here but we need to be cautious when the technology exists to monitor your every move. It is naive to assume that someone will never use this technology to harm someone. If we eventually have this type of system there will need to be safeguards to protect the public from misuse of the information gathered and accountability from those who gather and use this information for any misuse of this information. This is where the real discussion is that as these technologies develop and are used what safeguards will the pubic have against mishandling and misuse of the information gathered and how long will government and enforcement agencies be allowed to keep information gathered. Maybe I am the only one concerned about these issues.

  • avatar

    If you have driven in the UK, you will know no one keeps the speed limit, even in Villages and Towns, they go like there is no tomorrow, and another thing the “Telegraph” does have a Paywall, but they allow about ten articles a month for free!
    I do feel that Countries that joined the EU would have been better off adopting the Euro as well, if England, Wales leave the EU, Who is going to hold there hands? don’t expect other Countries to help them!

    • 0 avatar

      Really? Because joining the Euro worked so well for Greece, Portugal and Spain. And not joining worked out so badly for Denmark and Sweden. Oh sorry mixed that up!
      Since the UK is a net contributor to the EU budget and one of the largest economies in the world I don`t think it needs anyone to hold its hand.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    There will be more monitoring and gathering of information on the public in the future as the technology progresses and it becomes more affordable. My concerns are safeguarding the public from misuse. We all have given up privacy when we sign up for a customer plus card which is scanned at the store to get discounts or fuel points and this information is used by the stores to market directly to us. As with any technology there is room for abuse and there must be limits as to how this technology is used and protection from misuse.

    As for the EU there have been problems but it does make sense to have a unified currency and laws. Whether anything like what is mentioned in this article is ever agreed upon by the EU or not there should be accountability. I don’t have as much a problem with what is proposed, my concern is the potential for misuse. I follow the traffic laws and have nothing to hide but even a law abiding citizen can become a victim of misuse.

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