In just two years time all motor vehicles sold in Europe will be required to have technology to reduce excessive speed—a change that could deliver significant benefits to those on bikes.
Known as intelligent speed assistance (ISA), the technologies are designed to guide drivers in “maintaining the appropriate speed for the road environment” by providing feedback.
Recent tests have found that the systems that actually reduce motor power when the driver speeds are the most effective, and surprisingly, most preferred by drivers.
The fact that we have reached this point—where we have to rely on the car itself to control the drivers that put us at risk—is telling.
Decades of increasing penalties, enforcement, speed cameras, helicopters and the rest have failed to bring dangerous speeding under control.
But now those tiny computers in every car are out to grab control of the throttle. Will they succeed?
Recently the European Transport Safety Council has commissioned studies to investigate what kinds of feedback work the best.
Various approaches can be taken: flashing lights on the dashboard, buzzer warnings, and haptic feedback such as a vibrating accelerator pedal, and even a pedal that pushes back against the foot when the drivers are going too fast.
The Institute for Transport Studies at the University of Leeds found that speed control operated as a “dead throttle”, which limited vehicle speed to the speed limit by controlling engine power—unless the driver deliberately kicked through the limit—was the best option.
Because an ISA device can be disabled, the trick is for it to be designed so that it is effective enough, but not too annoying that drivers will defeat it.
The research shows that there is not a huge difference between devices in terms of their ability to get drivers to drive at appropriate speeds.
But there is a considerable difference in acceptability by the drivers, who seemed particularly annoyed at any system that would also alert passengers to the fact they were speeding.
They actually regarded the unseen and unheard speed control, where the car itself reduces power, as a “pleasant” experience.
This means that they are more likely to accept it and live with it, not attempting to defeat it or disable it.
Fear of speeding traffic is the biggest cause of stress for bike riders.
Although most drivers are generally compliant with safe speed requirements, many are not.
While some European cars on the market already have such devices fitted, there is no news yet of when ISA will be required in Australia, although most safety innovations generally make their way here.
This article was made possible by the support of Bicycle Network's members who enable us to make bike riding better in Australia.