The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

3 July 2005

Big Brother as back-seat driver

This can't possibly be good:

[R]esearchers recruited 20 volunteers to drive specially modified Skoda Fabias.

Each car was fitted with a black box containing a digital road map showing the speed limits on every road in the city.

A satellite positioning system told the car where it was on the map and alerted the driver, via a digital display on the dashboard, each time he entered a zone with a new speed limit.

If the driver attempted to exceed the limit, a signal was sent to the accelerator or brake pedal to intervene.

"If the driver is demanding something greater than the speed limit, that demand is ignored," said Oliver Carsten, the research leader and professor of transport safety at Leeds University. "In a 30mph zone the car will basically not accelerate above 30mph."

The justification, of course, is that it will save lives. Of course, they could save even more lives by forbidding cars altogether, but that's at least a few months away.

At least someone objects. Jeremy Clarkson, writer for the Sunday Times and cohost of the BBC's Top Gear series, issued the following complaint:

If you put speed limiters on cars so that they can only go to a certain limit you end up with terrible bunching which actually causes more accidents. Tony Blair is not going to tell me how fast to go.

The Department for Transport said there were no plans to make the devices mandatory:

It will be for the industry to take forward the technology in response to consumer demand.

Do you know anyone who would actually demand one of these things?

Aside to Vince Orza, who suggested in the Oklahoma Gazette a couple of weeks ago that PikePass should be revised to trap speeders on Oklahoma toll roads: If you had any notions of running for governor again, you just blew 'em.

(With thanks to

Posted at 10:42 AM to Driver's Seat