If You Won’t Stop Speeding, Your Car Will Do It for You, E.U. Tells Drivers

LONDON — The European Union plans to require speed-limiting and emergency braking technology in all new car models starting in 2022, along with dozens of other technical features to improve road safety, its Parliament announced Tuesday.

The speed-limiting technology, called intelligent speed assistance, uses video cameras, satellite location data or both to detect when drivers go over the speed limit, and curbs their ability to speed up further by restricting engine power. Drivers can override the system, depending on the model, by pressing harder on the gas pedal, for example.

The technology could reduce fatalities on the European Union’s roads by 20 percent, a statement from the European Parliament said on Tuesday. The rules would also require a recorder that collects anonymous vehicle data around the time of a road accident, an emergency braking system and other safety features.

The rules have been approved at the committee stage. To become official, they require confirmation from both the full European Parliament and ministers from all member states.

“There have only been a handful of moments in the last 50 years that could be described as big leaps in forward for road safety in Europe,” Antonio Avenoso, the executive director of the European Transport Safety Council, a nongovernmental organization, said in a statement on Tuesday. If the planned measures are approved, he added, they could prevent 25,000 deaths within 15 years.

Speed limits in the European Union vary between member nations, and efforts to curtail accidents and pollution have proved divisive. Germany doesn’t set a top speed on part of its storied autobahn, and recently rejected a speed limit on the entire network after popular outrage at the proposal.

France, on the other hand, has different limits for bad and good weather, on the same roads. A recent reduction of the speed limit on two-lane roads in part fueled anger of the “Yellow Vest” movement, and in January protesters, angry about traffic fines, knocked out more than half of the country’s speed camera network.

But the European Union has enacted rules that have helped improve road safety across the bloc. In 1998, it set common crash-test standards, and in 2006 made wearing seatbelts mandatory in all cars.

Despite those rules and others, 25,300 people died and 135,000 were seriously injured on European Union roads in 2017, with speeding cited as a major cause for accidents.

To improve road safety, “you can design roads in certain ways to limit speed, enforce speed limits and use vehicle technology,” Dudley Curtis, a spokesman for the European Transport Safety Council, said in an interview on Wednesday.

He said the newly proposed rules were just one aspect of improving safety.

Mr. Curtis also noted that this was not new technology that would be imposed by the European Union: Some carmakers have already been selling new models fitted with it. The latest Ford models available in Europe have a system that, when enabled, use a camera to recognize traffic signs and set the maximum speed according to local limits.

Volvo Cars said this month that starting in 2020 it would limit top speed on all its cars at 112 miles per hour. It cited data from American regulators showing that 25 percent of traffic deaths in the United States in 2017 had been caused by speeding.

“As humans, we all understand the dangers with snakes, spiders and heights. With speeds, not so much,” Jan Ivarsson, a safety expert with Volvo Cars said in a statement earlier this month. “People often drive too fast in a given traffic situation and have poor speed adaptation in relation to that traffic situation and their own capabilities as a driver.”

Despite European Union-wide safety rules, inequalities between member states persist. According to bloc statistics, death rates on roads were more than twice as high in Bulgaria and Romania, among the bloc’s poorest members, compared with some of the wealthiest nations, including Britain, the Netherlands and Sweden.

“One of the factors that divides Europe is an economic one,” said Mr. Curtis of the safety council. “Newer cars come to the richer countries first. There are also issues to do with infrastructure.”

Romania, for example, has few highways, which are generally considered among the safest areas of road transport.

“Driver behavior and the amount of money available for enforcement are another factor,” Mr. Curtis said.

Edmund King, the president of the Automobile Association in Britain, said there was “a good case” for autonomous emergency braking to be fitted in all cars, according to the BBC. “When it comes to intelligent speed adaptation, the case is not so clear,” he said.

“The right speed is often below the speed limit — for example, outside a school with children about — but with I.S.A., there may be a temptation to go at the top speed allowed,” Mr. King said, using the technology’s abbreviation. “Dodgem cars are all fitted with speed limiters, but they still seem to crash,” he added, referring to bumper cars.

The rules would apply to all new models starting in May 2022, and existing models on sale starting in May 2024. They will not require retrofitting cars sold before 2022. Britain’s Department for Transport said it would follow the rules despite the country’s planned withdrawal from the European Union.

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