Speeding in the EU could become physically impossible if this new law is passed
Colin Goodwin has been a motoring journalist for over 30 years, starting out at Car Magazine where he used to have lunch most days with a bloke called James May. He has written in most of the UK’s magazines and newspapers. He likes anything with a spark plug and isn’t keen on electric cars – and don’t even mention ones that drive themselves.
You need to read this because everything we stand for as car enthusiasts is at stake.
Last month the European Parliament Internal Market Committee and Consumer Protection met to vote on a new raft of safety systems that would become mandatory on new cars in the EU by 2020. One of those systems is called ISA or Intelligent Speed Assistance. Let me tell you about this horror.
ISA uses data from your car’s GPS and/or a speed sign-recognition video camera to detect the speed limit on the stretch of road that you’re on. Nothing new here: sat nav systems have been flashing up speed limits on their screens for years. The difference with ISA is that when it sees that you’re going, say, from a 40mph down to a 30mph limit it will automatically reduce engine power so that the car will not do more than 30mph.
An ISA system is actually fitted as standard to the latest Ford Focus. However, the driver can switch it off or override it by pressing the throttle pedal.
The committee in Brussels has given ISA the thumbs up and is looking to put the legislation into permanent ink before the European Parliament elections in May.
Does this matter if we can turn the system off?
It does because I think it’s highly unlikely that manufacturers will be allowed to fit ISA that can be turned off. Remember we’re talking about speeding here, which is illegal. If you can turn ISA off it is no different from choosing to break the speed limit by putting your foot down. I can’t see the regulators allowing it.
Obviously this is a disaster for us enthusiasts but it is also the beginning of the end for car manufacturers. Who will buy a BMW M4 if it can only do a maximum of 70mph? Worse, your 2022 M4 will be overtaken by someone in an old 318d and you won’t be able to retaliate.
The car manufacturers are in a difficult position. They can hardly go head to head with Brussels because as we’ve already said, speeding is illegal. Instead, European car makers are trying to push for the mandatory fitment of SLI, which is Speed Limit Information. That’s simply the displaying of speed limits on the dashboard or head-up display which we’ve already got. It looks like the Internal Market Committee hasn’t settled for this and wants ISA to be fitted.
What can we do about this nightmare?
Not much I fear. Of course it will probably be very easy to disable an ISA system but can you imagine how hard the authorities will come down on you if you’re caught speeding in a post 2022 car that should have ISA? For one thing the insurance would be invalid.
The only answer is to keep hold of your current performance car. The rest of your life driving a Mercedes-AMG E63 estate? It could be worse.