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GOVERNMENT AGENCY WANTS SPEED CONTROL DEVICES IN YOUR CAR

NTSB Is Trying to Save You From Yourself

Roadkill Nights 2019 2020 2021
Photo copyright Manoli Katakis, Muscle Cars & Trucks.

The National Transportation Safety Board is back with a straight-up passive-aggressive threat: slow down, or we’ll make the government do it for you via speed control devices. Their reasoning is seemingly simple, 108,000 Americans have died in accidents where speed was reported as a factor over the last decade.

NTSB claims that these deaths could be prevented by electronically limiting the speed cars can travel. And if you disagree, you’re not only a psychopath, but you probably voted for the GOP, and are without a doubt some kind of anti-vaxxer, spreading “misinformation” that could lead to “hesitancy”. If you want to argue semantics like a self-important pedant, what the NTSB actually did was set out a timetable for incentivizing automakers to start putting speed control limiters in new cars.

So actually, this is the NTSB asking the government to potentially hand out the equivalent of cash prizes to corporations who take steps to monitor and modify your behavior. Of course, it’s important to remember that the NTSB doesn’t actually have the authority to dictate policy, it can only make recommendations and hope NHTSA does something about it. That being said, it was the NTSB that started us down the path of passive monitoring systems in cars to prevent impaired driving, without much clarity as to how it would work, or how automakers would implement such a feature.

Sure, the agency hasn’t outright yet mandated speed control devices in cars, but has begun the roll down the slippery slope by recommending a three-year gestation period to develop an incentive package to convince automakers to install speed control devices in cars. It’s effectively the same thing. And if you don’t think those two things live on the same plane, you’re being deliberately obtuse. Because it’s already happening in other parts of the world.

Europe has already moved to implement an extreme version of the NTSB’s speed control device vision. Automakers in Europe are required to install a dystopian system called Intelligent Speed Assistance. As with many of these double-speak acronyms (Inflation Reduction Act, anyone?), ISA doesn’t actually assist you at all. What it does do, however, is use cameras and satellite navigation to control how fast your car is allowed to drive. New York City is already experimenting with ISAs in government fleet vehicles as part of a pilot project.

The European ISA system works exactly as you think. A forward-facing camera is linked with the vehicle’s satellite navigation system to identify the speed limit as posted, if the car is exceeding said limit fuel flow is restricted to the engine until the car is in compliance. The speed control device can be overridden with a firm press on the accelerator, but the car’s infotainment system will start to make loud sounds and flash warnings. The override was baked in to help drivers become accustomed to the technology, but it could one day become un-defeat-able if the EU decides.

Some automakers have gone to self-police themselves when it comes to speed limiters, with Volvo limiting all of its cars to 112 miles per hour. In other cases, such speeds are tire-limited, and these vehicles electronically limit speeds so as to prevent a blowout. That’s why 700+ horsepower trucks, whether they are powered by gasoline, or electricity, are limited to under 120 mph. In many cases, that’s double the legal posted speed limit on many US highways. That sounds dangerous, but nobody is necessarily arguing the dangers of speeding here. But there is something to be said in regards to how just about every government agency under the sun, be it the EPA to the DOT, seeks to discourage and limit the liberties of driving, while at the same time doing absolutely nothing to improve the standards of driver’s education, or the safety and efficiencies of public transportation, despite other countries setting examples on how to do so.

And what does it mean for our modern day muscle cars, sports cars and super cars? Politically incorrect by nature, just about all of them these days can reach speeds close to 200 miles per hour, or even exceed that barrier. On the track, sheer speed is how these vehicles demonstrate their capabilities, and their value. Removing that capability means removing the appeal of these machines, which are so often hyper-individualized for each particular owner. Perhaps, that’s the entire basis of various agencies seeking to put the brakes on anything fast – to simply phase them out in a passive way. And perhaps that’s why everything old is cool again, as those who appear to be aware of the situation forego the latest luxury SUV in favor of something more vintage, and fixable.

Remember, your government loves you, and they’ll feel much better about your safety if you’re held captive in some self-driving short bus that never speeds or deviates from approved travel paths or destinations.

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Written by Michael Accardi

Michael refuses to sit still, he's held multiple hands-on automotive jobs throughout his life. Along with being an investigative writer and accomplished photographer, Michael has wrenched on Fords as a dealership mechanic, worked with air-cooled Porsches in a small shop in Toronto, as well as Nautique ski boats in cottage country. Additionally, he was part of the Ford GT program at Multimatic, oversaw a fleet of Audi TCR racecars, and cared for GT3 Cup cars. Currently he's working with a Duqueine LMP3 in the IMSA WeatherTech paddock.

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