Remember a few weeks back when I wrote about the ’14 Lincoln MKZ – and the creepy real-time updating “Speed Limit Currently Is” warning icon displayed in the gauge cluster? The way it knew whether you were “speeding”? The way the car slowed down without any input from you when it felt the need? (Read here for more about that.)
Now comes confirmation – via Europe – where it’s all ultimately headed. You’re not gonna like it. But don’t say I didn’t warn you:
The European Commission’s Mobility and Transport Department – which wields regulatory power over most of Western Europe’s roads – has put forth a proposal under the typically banal-bureaucratic-sounding rubric, Intelligent Speed Adaptation (ISA). It would use the technology I referenced in the MKZ write-up – which endows a car with the power to know the speed limit on any given road, updated continuously in real time via in car-cameras/ GPS – in conjunction with automated braking – to electronically prevent the car from ever being driven faster than the posted speed limit.
News story here.
The hard (and soft) ware would be made mandatory – and not only for new cars. Older cars that didn’t come with the technology from the factory would be required to submit to a retrofitting – at the expense of the owner, of course.
But the most ominous angle is the one not mentioned in any news story. It is, simply, that all cars more than a few years old would be banned from the road if this measure becomes law. Reason? They can’t be retrofitted. At least, not within economic reason.
For instance, if a vehicle does not have ABS – four-wheel ABS (many trucks, even fairly recent models, only have rear-wheel ABS) – it can’t be made to brake automatically, via computer control. The only way to “fix” that would be to gut and replace the factory-installed non-ABS brake system with an ABS system – and now we’re talkingmoney. An ABS pump, wheel speed sensors at each wheel, specialized master cylinder and brake distribution box – plus all the necessary software to make it work – tied into a computer capable of governing the works (the factory unit may not be, in which case, a new, ABS-friendly computer would also be required).
You’d need to address throttle inputs – and that entails drive-by-wire, which most cars more than a few years old do nothave. Ditto the GPS unit – necessary for the “real time” updating of speed limit data as you drive.
Holy mother! There is some money to be made.
And control to be had.
But here’s where it gets really clever: If a given vehicle does not have a computer at all, forget it. Such cars also can’t be controlled – at least, not without a wholesale re-engineering of their entire drivetrains at prohibitive cost. This means virtually all cars made before the early 1980s – and almost all motorcycles, for you bikers, made before the early 2000s – would be rendered illegal to operate. You might say: So what? That’s The EU, not the US. To which I’d reply: If only. What’s done in Europe first – everything from the Prussian government school model to the UK’s cameras everywhere – seems to be imitated here within a few years.