GPS Controlled Car Speed Proposal Could Help Cut Road Deaths

Potentially large reductions in road deaths and injuries - thought to be as dramatic as 29 per cent - could result from a widespread adoption of the new 'Intelligent Speed Adaption' (ISA) proposals, said the IAM, the UK's largest independent road safety charity.

The IAM, contributors to the government's Motorists' Forum, has backed the scheme but would like to see new digital speed maps at the heart of the ISA system prioritise potentially lethal rural roads.

IAM Director of Research and Policy Neil Greig cautioned that motorists may well resist initially a system that dictates how fast they can drive.

"ISA may be able to ensure that all cars observe speed limits, provided that critical safety conditions are met and tested. However, even with these assurances, an understandable deep-rooted concern about 'Big Brother' will have to be overcome."

Mr Greig said that the report today showed that fleet managers showed a general lack of support, as they did not believe that exceeding speed limits necessarily reduced a driver's safety.

Like an in-car navigation system, ISA uses global satellite positioning (GPS) and a digital map to establish a car's location and what the speed limit is at that point on the road. This information can be used to:

· tell the driver the speed limit through a display on the instrument panel (Advisory ISA)

· control the speed of the vehicle, if the driver so wishes (Discretionary ISA)

· automatically control the speed of the vehicle (Controlling ISA).

Once ISA is set to keep the car to the speed limit, it does not allow the driver to accelerate beyond it. The system may apply the brakes lightly if the limit is exceeded by a certain amount (for example, while going downhill).

The IAM believes that certain safeguards need to be built in before extensive ISA trialing, including a very high standard of reliability of equipment and speed limit data.

"Drivers could keep their foot firmly on the accelerator, secure in the knowledge that they cannot exceed the maximum permitted speed - so they could fail to drop their speed to below the limit when conditions require it," said Mr Greig. "That abdication of driver responsibility would not be helpful to road safety in the long run."

Mr Greig said that drivers may adopt ISA devices if they promised that speeding fines, penalty points and loss of licence became things of the past.

5 January 2009 Staff

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