The EU has passed a law making so-called intelligent speed assistance (ISA) mandatory for all new cars. “Intelligent speed assistance,” in short, is a system that makes it easier to adjust your speed. The new law ensures that all new cars entering the European market from July 2024 must be equipped with it. However, it does not have a retroactive effect and therefore will not apply to cars already on the market.
According to the European Commission, “The introduction of ISA will be an important step towards creating safer roads, as the system has great potential to reduce car accidents and road deaths.” According to an evaluation of the EU-funded project PROSPER, a legal requirement to use the ISA system could lead to 26 to 50 percent fewer road deaths.
ISA is a system that informs, warns and discourages drivers from exceeding the local speed limit. For those unfamiliar with ISA: It is not a single feature, but a series of different systems that work together to make it easier to maintain the proper speed. This is usually done via cameras located at the front of the vehicle or via the vehicle’s GPS. The in-vehicle speed limit is automatically set based on the speed limits displayed on the road. GPS in conjunction with digital speed limit maps allows ISA technology to continuously adjust the in-vehicle speed limit to match the speed limit on the road. There are three types of ISA:
Informative or advisory ISA gives the driver feedback through a visual or audio signal. A Speed Alert System is an informative version of ISA; it is able to inform the driver of current speed limits and speeding.
Supportive or warning ISA increases the upward pressure on the accelerator pedal. It is possible to override the supportive system by pressing the accelerator harder.
Intervening or mandatory ISA prevents any speeding, for example, by reducing fuel injection or by requiring a “kick-down” by the driver if he or she wishes to exceed the limit.
ISA has other benefits as well: Fuel and CO2 savings, the potential to reduce travel time, managed highways, etc. Various trials across Europe have shown that about 60-75% of users would accept ISA in their own cars (trials of ISA have been conducted in ten European countries: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Hungary, and the Netherlands, Spain, and Sweden).
However, there are still some challenges that ISA systems face: For example, the ISA system can sometimes be disruptive to drivers and other road users, and drivers who rely on the ISA system would ignore real-time road conditions.