Are Speed Limiters Coming to American Cars?

Tim Healey
by Tim Healey
are speed limiters coming to american cars

Carscoops is reminding us that a law passed in 2019 is mandating that new cars introduced after 2022 must be fitted with speed limiters.

Here’s the good news, at least for us Yanks and Canucks — the law was passed by the European Union and applies to, well, Europe.

That said, Carscoops is sounding the alarm. Could speed limiters come to North America?

To be clear, the limiters don’t appear to make it physically impossible for drivers to go over the speed limit, but rather the tech uses things like flashing lights to get the driver’s attention so he/she can slow down.

While we applaud efforts to reduce accidents, we find tech limiting speed at this level to be a bridge too far. It’s one thing for automakers to limit speed at levels we’d never even attempt to attain on public roads — lots of cars are capped by the factory, usually at 155 — or to set a speed limiter to match the tires’ speed rating. It’s another to be this heavy-handed.

The tech supposedly uses a combo of GPS and traffic-sign recognition, and we’d point out that sometimes both technologies fail. We also don’t like the idea of having our speed clipped without providing for context — even those who mostly maintain the limit occasionally climb above to execute a pass more safely. And do I want my car screaming at me during a medical emergency that requires me to drive faster?

I get it. There are some birdbrains out there doing 50 in 25 mph residential zones where kids are playing, and that’s not cool. But context matters. Ten over on the interstate is less objectionable — and probably less dangerous — than 10 over in the congested city. And drivers should be able to make that choice for themselves, without a safety nanny scolding them.

Carscoops’ actual evidence for the emergence of this tech in America is thin — the site cites a video from a British motoring journalist and also makes the “hey it could happen here, but there’s no strong evidence it will” argument. I realize I could be simply aggregating a blog that’s mind to catch clicks on a slow news day in our own attempt to have content (and thus catch clicks).

Or this could be one of those creeping privacy invasions this site is constantly screaming about. Remember, even if the feds never do something like this, it could, in theory, be done at the state level, though I’d imagine OEMs would kick and scream to avoid building cars both for states with and without speed limiters, because of the extra cost of building vehicles with separate tech for differing states.

I can’t foresee these coming to America (or Canada). But we’ll keep a wary eye out just the same.

[Image: Svitlana Pimenov/]

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  • Jeff S Jeff S on Jul 04, 2021

    I thought most vehicles had speed limiters and 110 mph for trucks seems reasonable. I cannot get too upset about speed limiters as long as they allow you to go at least 80. As for cheapo tires manufacturers have been installing them for years and they can be replaced by better tires. Manufacturers don't want you to drive too fast otherwise you will not get close to the mpgs they post. MPGs drop significantly when you drive 80 or above.

  • Speedlaw Speedlaw on Jul 05, 2021

    Everyone...kindly refrain from using IIHS for literally anything. The only place our interests as drivers coincide with IIHS is the crash testing, and that is only because NHTSA hasn't kept up with the times... I've spent years reading their nonsense, and every study they do is for lower speed limits, more enforcement, and more limitations...period. Those of us who recall 55 mph NMSL and the battle to remove it know IIHS makes stuff up and writes the study to support it. IIHS is fully owned by the insurance companies, they aren't an unbiased observer-great fans of 55 mph, and they LOVED the 85 mph speedo. They never met a heavy hammer penalty, enforcement mechanism or camera they didn't love. We'd be the UK camera hell if it was up to them. Also, this isn't Streets Blog, who has a 100% anti car agenda and then will twist whatever to match it. The streets are for pedestrians argument never met a horse, or why sidewalks were invented, prior to the wasn't some safe nirvana with thousands of horses in NYC streets, and streetcars elsewhere. I enjoyed their "the invention of Jaywalking" revisionist history but that doesn't mean it is true. Segregation of traffic is, interestingly, OK for Streetsblog when it is a hard median bike lane demanded by the 1% who use a bicycle in an urban enviroment, but not for pedestrians. Sidewalks for peds...hard bike lanes for bikes (riding a bike in a big city on the street in the US is a risk I won't take....meat on a stick). We may argue all we want, but the Germans have a great saying "They'll put But He Had Right of Way" on the tombstone....There is a reason we don't allow horses on the all comes down to speed differentials. Dedicated bus lanes ? Sure. Light Rail ? Sure. I'm not against changing the streetscape, including closing streets where valid to all auto traffic, but putting essentially stationary bikes on a moving roadway is an invitation for disaster and the answer is segregate users according to type, not reform the entire system back to 1800. Why can't I walk on a railroad right of way ? People existed in the woods long before trains were invented. A ped always has right of way, full stop, but encouraging safe habits appears to be missing from the VZ mindset, in lieu of car hatred.

    • See 1 previous
    • Dal20402 Dal20402 on Jul 05, 2021

      Freeways are fine (except where established neighborhoods were demolished to build them). We're talking about city streets, where there are going to be pedestrians, cyclists, and other non-car users, because a good city street isn't just a car thoroughfare, but a destination with lots of reasons for people to stop. Fast-moving cars ruin city streets; from outside a car, they change the feeling from a welcoming place into a forbidding and hostile one. Good cities abroad just don't have fast car movement in the central city. Freeways bypass cities instead of going right through them, and visitors from out of town park in central parking and then walk between in-city destinations. A lot of things would have to change to get the US into that situation, but not accepting that a 30+ mph car is something that should ever be on a city street would be a good start.

  • Kwik_Shift I like, because I don't have to look at them. Just by feel and location while driving.
  • Dwford This is the last time we are making these, so you better hurry up and buy (until the next time we make them, that is)
  • FreedMike @Tim: "...about 40 percent of us Yanks don't live in a single-family home."Keep in mind that this only describes single family **detached** homes. But plenty of other house types offer a garage you can use to charge up in - attached single family homes (townhouses, primarily), or duplex/triplex/four-plexes. Plus, lots of condos have garages built in. Add those types of housing in and that 40% figure drops by a lot. Regardless, this points out what I've been thinking for a while now - EV ownership is great if you have a garage, and inconvenient (and more expensive) if you don't. The good news if you're looking for more EV sales is that there are literally hundreds of millions of Americans who have garages. If I had one, I'd be looking very closely at buying electric next time around.
  • Matthew N Fanetti I bought a Silver1985 Corolla GTS Hatchback used in 1989 with 80k miles for $5000. I was kin struggling student and I had no idea how good the car really was. All I knew was on the test drive I got to 80 faster than I expected from a Corolla. Slowly I figured out how special it was. It handled like nothing I had driven before, tearing up backroads at speeds that were downright crazy. On the highway I had it to about 128mph on two occasions, though it took some time to get there, it just kept going until I chickened out. I was an irresponsible kids doing donuts in parking lots and coming of corners sideways. I really drove it hard, but it never needed engine repair even to the day I sold it in 1999 with 225000 miles on it, still running well - but rusty and things were beginning to crap out (Like AC, etc.). I smoked a same year Mustang GT - off the line - by revving up and dumping the clutch. Started to go sideways, but nothing broke or even needed attention. Daily driving, only needed the clutch into first. It was that smooth and well-synced. Super tight, but drivable LSD. Just awesome from daily chores to super-fun.To this day I wish I had kept it, because now I have the money to fix it. It is hard to explain how amazing this car was back in the day - and available to people with limited money - and still the highest quality.
  • Cprescott Well, duh. You will pay more to charge a golf cart than an ICE of the same size if you charge externally. Plus when you factor in the lost time, you will pay through the nose more than an ICE on lost opportunity costs. Golf car ownership savings is pure myth.