Speed Limiters and Built-In Breathalyzers May Soon Be Mandatory in All EU Cars

March 27, 2019, 11:30 AM UTC

New safety features for cars, including speed-limiting technology, are likely to be mandated in Europe after lawmakers and European Union countries reached a deal Tuesday.

So-called intelligent speed assistance (ISA) technology is already found in some high-end vehicles from manufacturers such as Ford and Honda, but the plan is to ensure it’s rolled out more widely. If finalized, the rules would apply to all new cars being made in or exported to the EU from 2022.

ISA technology recognizes what the speed limit is in a given area through the use of GPS or speed-sign recognition cameras, then shows the limit to the driver. It can automatically limit the car’s speed, but it does not automatically apply the brakes to ensure compliance — instead, it limits engine power. The technology also doesn’t stop drivers from speeding up beyond the limit if they need to do so, for safety or overtaking reasons. This will be possible by applying extra pressure to the accelerator pedal.

Other features included in the legislation include: built-in breathalyzers to stop drunk drivers from starting the engine; drowsiness and distraction recognition systems to warn people when they’re at risk of falling asleep or looking at their smartphones; black-box-style recorders to log what happens in accidents; and systems to warn truck and bus drivers of nearby cyclists and pedestrians when they’re making turns.

The legislation, known as the General Safety Regulation, cleared so-called trilogue negotiations on Tuesday. This is the almost-final stage for EU legislation, in which the European Commission, Council (representing member states) and Parliament reach a compromise. The final steps should see the European Parliament and Council formally approve the law.

“Every year, 25,000 people lose their lives on our roads. The vast majority of these accidents are caused by human error,” said Elżbieta Bieńkowska, the EU’s industry commissioner. “We can and must act to change this. With the new advanced safety features that will become mandatory, we can have the same kind of impact as when the safety belts were first introduced.”

The Commission is also pitching the safety features as a stepping-stone toward a future of fully-automated vehicles. “The new advanced safety features will help drivers get gradually used to the new driving assistance,” it said in a statement. “Increasing degrees of automation offer significant potential to compensate for human errors and offer new mobility solutions for the elderly and physically impaired. All this should enhance public trust and acceptance of automated cars, supporting the transition towards autonomous driving.”

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