Will Intelligent Speed Assist Technology Make American Roads Safer?

In January 2022, a devastating accident in Las Vegas involving a Dodge Challenger speeding at 103 mph resulted in multiple fatalities. This tragedy, investigated by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), highlighted the dire need for intelligent speed-assist technology (ISA) in vehicles. The NTSB’s findings revealed that the driver, impaired by drugs, had a history of speeding. This incident has propelled the NTSB to advocate for ISA technology to be standard in all new vehicles in US, a move beyond relying on state laws to curb speeding and repeat offenses.

Understanding ISA Technology

ISA technology functions by utilizing a vehicle’s GPS and a database of speed limits, along with onboard cameras, to determine the legal speed. Passive ISA systems alert drivers when they exceed the speed limit through auditory, visual, or haptic signals, leaving the driver to slow down the vehicle. Active ISA systems, on the other hand, can restrict a vehicle’s speed above the limit. While some Americans might view active ISA as an infringement on their freedom, the technology’s potential to save lives is significant, especially considering that nearly one-third of all traffic-related deaths are due to speeding.

European Precedence and Global Implications

Europe has already mandated ISA technology in all new vehicles from 2022, as per the European Commission’s Vehicle General Safety Regulation. This includes a requirement for 90% accuracy in ISA systems. Volvo’s recent announcement of its EX30 electric vehicle, equipped with passive ISA and Google Built-in for accurate speed limit data, exemplifies the global shift towards safer vehicle technology. The integration of ISA with advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) like emergency braking and lane assistance is becoming a standard in the automotive industry.

The Road Ahead for Automakers and Legislation

Post-investigation of the Las Vegas crash, the NTSB has urged major automakers to incorporate speed-assistance features in new vehicles. While a minimum requirement is a speed warning system, the NTSB supports more comprehensive measures. The agency has previously encouraged the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to promote ISA adoption through incentives. The NTSB also recommends that NHTSA develop guidelines for states to implement pilot ISA programs for repeat offenders. With increasing ADAS features in new cars and legislative focus on driver monitoring systems, the integration of passive ISA seems a logical step forward.

Another concern that needs to be addressed is the technological reliability of ISA systems. Automakers and technology developers must ensure that ISA systems are highly accurate and dependable, minimizing the risk of false warnings or system malfunctions. Additionally, comprehensive driver education programs are essential to familiarize drivers with ISA technology, its purpose, and its benefits.

In conclusion, the push for ISA technology in new vehicles marks a significant shift in automotive safety standards. While there are concerns about freedom and technological reliability, the overarching goal is to reduce traffic-related fatalities. As the NTSB awaits NHTSA’s decision on this mandate, the future of driving safety hinges on the balance between technological innovation and public acceptance. 

Some individuals may perceive ISA as an intrusion on their driving autonomy, raising concerns about personal control and freedom of choice. However, it’s essential to emphasize that ISA is not about restricting driving freedom but about enhancing safety. The technology’s primary goal is to prevent accidents caused by speeding, a significant factor in road fatalities.