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Traffic on a highway at night and in the rain: New technology aims to prevent accidents

Traffic on a highway at night and in the rain: New technology aims to prevent accidents

Photo: Wilhelm Mierendorf / IMAGO

It is a document that is likely to cause trouble in the future. EU regulation 2019/2144 is about technology to make drivers more reliable at speed limits. The speed warning system should be constantly active – in the name of road safety. In addition, numerous other driving data are to be recorded in a black box and read out if necessary.

Here's what's changing for drivers in 2022

On 12. November 2021 the regulation was adopted. This means that new vehicle types (cars, trucks, buses) in the EU will have to be tested from 6. July 2022 to be equipped with Intelligent Speed Assistance (ISA). Initially, the regulation applies to new types of vehicles introduced to the market. From the 7. July 2024 then all new cars must have this driving assistance system. There is both praise and criticism from the industry for the EU regulation, which is 161 pages long in total.

With ISA, the EU would like to prevent the deaths of up to 25.000 people per year on the roads, plus around 140.000 serious injuries. In Germany alone, about one third of traffic fatalities are due to accidents caused by excessive speed, according to figures from the German Federal Statistical Office.

Control unit in an SUV: A so-called Event Data Recorder (EDR) is programmed on it. This records data such as speed, which can be played back in the event of an accident

Control unit in an SUV: a so-called Event Data Recorder (EDR) is programmed on it. This records data such as speed that can be played out in the event of an accident.

Photo: Sebastian Gollnow / picture alliance / dpa

The system combines well-known assistance systems with each other: traffic sign recognition, cruise control, the speed limiter and the navigation system. For example, the ISA is supposed to detect the applicable limits using sensors, camera images and a certified digital map network. Such data is currently available from Google, the cooperation of Here, Continental and Elektrobit, and the navigation system manufacturer TomTom.

It beeps, vibrates or presses

If it detects speeding, the system alerts the driver to it. This can be done either visually and acoustically, by an illuminated warning in the field of vision and a warning tone. Or visually and haptically, if a vibrating accelerator pedal is added to the warning. Similarly, the rule allows the ISA system to be haptic and active only. Then, for example, the counterpressure of the accelerator pedal is increased. The driver must therefore press more strongly on the pedal to maintain the speed. This option is particularly important for Tesla. Because in many of the e-car manufacturer’s passenger cars, there is no display in the driver’s direct field of vision; the large touchscreen sits in the center of the dashboard.

The EU regulation also allows the system to be interpreted more strictly. If driving too fast, the fuel supply could be throttled or engine power could be cut off completely, reducing speed below the applicable limit. The brake, however, is not used. The system must be offered free of charge for at least seven years. After that, the manufacturer is free to charge for additional functions of the ISA technology.

ISA system can be switched off

Is the speed limit coming through the back door with intelligent speed assist?? Clear answer: No. This is because, in addition to the ISA obligation, the EU regulation also stipulates that motorists should at all times maintain control of their vehicle. This means that the ISA system’s warnings can be ignored or overruled – for example, by pressing hard on the gas pedal pedal. In addition, the system must be able to be switched off, at least for the duration of a car journey. When restarting the vehicle it will be active again.

“ISA is not an autonomous technology. As the name suggests, it’s an assistance system that helps drivers and informs them of the speed limit when they’re not aware of it,” says Stephanie Leonard, government and regulatory affairs expert at navigation company TomTom. “For intelligent speed assist to have a positive and lasting impact on road safety, drivers need to adopt it and use it,” Leonard continued.

Criticism of lax design

Various associations are skeptical that the new regulation will ensure that. They accuse the EU Commission that the design of the regulation was too strongly dictated by the car lobby. Background: the Association of European Automobile Manufacturers (ACEA) had already expressed criticism in 2018 of the plan to make an intelligent speed assistant mandatory in new cars.

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“In practice, ISA systems still display too many false warnings due to incorrect or outdated information about speed limits,” the association said at the time. Manufacturers seem to have prevailed with their concerns, the system’s disengageability suggests. The German Automobile Club (ADAC) also considers the system “currently insufficiently tested and mature”. The envisaged switch-off option therefore makes sense.

The International Federation of Pedestrians, on the other hand, the advocacy group for pedestrians, sees it quite differently. It regrets “that the technical committee gave in to the massive lobbying of vehicle manufacturers”.

The European Transport Safety Commission (ETSC) expresses a similar opinion. It criticizes the fact that a system that only warns of speeding for a few seconds acoustically and visually is considered sufficient. According to its own research, these signals would simply be perceived as annoying by drivers and therefore ignored or switched off. The ETSC’s conclusion: “A system that is switched off has no safety advantage.”

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