Cars in Europe could soon be fitted with technology to stop drivers speeding

Key Points
  • The proposed safety features include the introduction of intelligent speed-assistance technology.
  • Under the plans, vehicles will also provide warnings if they detect a driver is drowsy or distracted and will use data recorders to document accidents.
Illuminated panels indicate a speed limit of 120 kilometers per hour above the A3 motorway near Frankfurt Airport, Germany.
Silas Stein | picture alliance | Getty Images

A range of mandatory safety features for new vehicles, including technology that could limit speed, are set to be introduced in the European Union (EU).

In an announcement Tuesday, the European Commission — the EU's executive arm — said that EU institutions had come to a provisional political agreement on the new measures. That agreement is now subject to formal approval from the European Parliament and Council, with the new technologies set to be introduced in 2022.

The proposed safety features include the introduction of intelligent speed-assistance technology, or ISA. According to the European Transport Safety Council (ETSC), ISA uses technology such as GPS, digital mapping and cameras to give vehicles location and speed limit information.

ISA systems can "limit engine power" to stop drivers from going above the speed limit. The ETSC says it recommends ISA technologies that can be temporarily overridden. This would mean that drivers could, in scenarios such as overtakes on lower-speed sections of road, override the system by putting their foot down on the accelerator.

The mandatory ISA system proposed by the Commission would not automatically slow a car down, but warn a driver that they were travelling above a road's speed limit.

Several major car manufacturers already offer various iterations of ISA systems in their vehicles.

Other proposed safety features include advanced emergency braking, cameras that assist with reversing, and lane-keeping assistance. Vehicles will also provide warnings if they detect a driver is drowsy or distracted and will use data recorders to document accidents.

"Every year, 25,000 people lose their lives on our roads," EU Commissioner Elzbieta Bienkowska said in a statement.

"The vast majority of these accidents are caused by human error," she added. "We can and must act to change this. With the new advanced safety features that will become mandatory, we can have the same kind of impact as when the safety belts were first introduced."

A number of major car firms are looking to introduce increasingly sophisticated and connected safety features to their vehicles.

Just last week, Volvo Cars announced it would install in-car cameras and sensors to monitor drivers for signs of intoxication and distraction.

The firm said the technology would be used to monitor drivers and, when needed, enable the car "to intervene if a clearly intoxicated or distracted driver does not respond to warning signals and is risking an accident involving serious injury or death."

Actions the car could take include limiting speed to slowing down and then parking the car in a safe place. Installation of the technology will start in the early 2020s.

At the beginning of March, the company announced it would introduce a 180 kilometers per hour (112 miles per hour) speed limit on all its cars from 2020.

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Clarification: This story has been updated to reflect how the ISA system proposed by the European Commission would work.