What would you think if all vehicles in the US were required to be equipped with a system that automatically limits your vehicle’s speed to the posted limit?  Think something like that is far off?  It might be in the US, but it is not so far off for European Union countries and the UK.

Endorsed by EU members

It seems that the European Transport Safety Council (ETSC) has received an endorsement by European Union (EU) Member States on the technical standards for an autonomous speed control system.  A system which will be required in all new models of “vehicles” sold in the European Union as of 2022.  ETSC calls the system “Intelligent Speed Assistance” (ISA).

According to the ETSC:

“By next year, the European Union will have, by far, the most stringent vehicle safety standards in the world with systems including Advanced Emergency Braking (AEB), Emergency Lane Keeping Assist (ELKS), drowsiness and distraction recognition and Intelligent Speed Assistance (ISA) all mandatory.  By 2024 every new car sold in the EU will need to be fitted with these technologies.”

Different types of ISA

Under the latest proposed regulations, vehicle manufacturers can choose one of four different types of ISA implementation.  According to the World Trade Organization website, manufacturers will be allowed to choose any of the below methods in the implementation of their ISA systems:

  1. The haptic feedback system which relies on the pedal restoring force:  –Driver’s foot will be gently pushed back in case of over-speed. It will help to reduce driving speed and can be overridden by the driver.
  2.  The speed control system which relies on engine management: –Automatic reduction of the propulsion power independent of the position of the driver’s feet on the pedal, but that can also be overridden by the driver easily.
  3. The cascaded acoustic warning:
    1. 1st step: flash an optical signal
    2. 2nd step: after several seconds, if no reaction from the driver, the acoustic warning will be activated.
    3. If the driver ignores this combined feedback, both warnings will be timed-out.
  4. The cascaded vibration warning
      1. 1st step: flash an optical signal
      2. 2nd step: after several seconds, if no reaction from the driver, pedal will vibrate If the driver ignores this combined feedback, both warnings will be timed-out.

More stringent requirements wanted

Believe it or not, the ETSC had wanted much more stringent requirements for ISA.  Their position is that the above implementations are not stringent enough to control vehicle speed.  They are quite concerned that some of the ISA implementations do not do enough to control the vehicle’s speed.  In a letter to EU Member States Representatives dated 24 September 2020, they raised three main concerns:

  1. The possibility of vehicle manufacturers installing a system that only alerts drivers when they break the speed limit, rather than assisting them to remain within it via feedback on the accelerator or by limiting engine torque;
  2. The issue of systems that can be deactivated too easily.
  3. The risks of fitting systems that are not accurate enough at correctly identifying the correct speed limit;

Image credit: ETSC

ETSC Executive Director Antonio Avenoso expressed his disappointment with what appears to be the final technical regulations:

“More than twenty years after this technology was first trialled, it is great to see Intelligent Speed Assistance finally coming to all new vehicles in the EU.  It is a big step forward for road safety.”

 “However, we are disappointed that carmakers are being given the option to install an unproven system (i.e. systems with acoustic and visible warnings – ed.) that may have little safety benefit.  We sincerely hope that carmakers will go beyond the minimum specifications and take full advantage of the life-saving potential of speed assistance technology.  It saves lives, prevents serious injuries and saves fuel and emissions.”

Ready to amend regulations

While the ETSC did not get as stringent an ISA requirement as they would have liked, they are ready to change the regulations should the chance arise.  In an article on the ETSC website, ETSC says they will look at how ISA is being used.

How will they do that?  They will obtain the data from all equipped vehicles’ data recorders.  Yes, your (reportedly anonymized) driving habits will be downloaded and reviewed by Governmental authorities.  This will happen whether you give your permission or not.  Vehicle manufacturers will be required to aggregate data on how the ISA systems are being used.  Just how the data will be aggregated is not clear.  Will your data be downloaded during service at a dealer or taken during an over-the-air software update?

ETSC Director Avenoso made his feelings known on the vehicle manufacturer’s mandatory aggregation of data on the same webpage:

“In a positive development, the draft requirements state that carmakers will have to report aggregate, anonymous data on how ISA systems are being used, and if they are being switched off by drivers.  Two years after the legislation comes into force, it should be possible to see, based on real-world data, which systems are most effective.  That will be a good opportunity to learn and react to improve the technology in the future.”

What will the amendments require?

Potentially the most troubling sentence in Avenoso’s quote is the last one.  “That will be a good opportunity to learn and react to improve the technology in the future.”  The Director doesn’t say just what technology needs to be improved.  But it’s reasonable to surmise that with his displeasure on visual and audible alerts, that he wants ISA technology to take more positive control of the vehicle.  This means reducing the vehicle’s torque or active pushback on the accelerator.

From the draft regulation:

“The effectiveness and reliability of the different ISA systems have to be assessed once
sufficient number of motor vehicles equipped with such systems have been placed on the market and the relevant real-life experience is available. It is also essential that such evaluation is made as soon as possible and, if necessary, the requirements in this Commission Delegated Regulation are amended accordingly. It is provided that the Commission assess the effectiveness of the ISA systems by 31 December 2025…”

So while the ETSC didn’t get its way completely, they’re looking to make changes in the future.


Image credit: Euro NCAP

Well thought out?

It’s not clear whether the ETSC and the EU Member States did any significant evaluation of current ISA systems. However, current vehicle safety systems do have their foibles.

For example, weather conditions can drastically affect safety systems cameras and radar.  Snow and ice can completely defeat these safety systems when the cameras or radar antennas are obscured.  This means that your automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, and lane-keep assist, etc., may not function as planned or function at all.  While the systems may alert you that they are inoperative, they will not do their job when you need them the most.

This begs the same questions for ISA.  How will ISAs camera and radar systems react to difficult conditions?

So what does all of this have to do with motorcycles?  Well, it’s unclear whether the new EU regulations will affect them.  The current draft regulations cover motor vehicles and require “vehicle manufacturers” to install an ISA system.  A motorcycle is certainly a motor vehicle in most jurisdictions.  Accordingly, the effect on motorcycles in this regulation is not specifically stated.  But is clear that they have not been specifically excluded.

What do you think about mandatory ISA?  Do you think there will be pressure to add similar systems to vehicles in the US?  Let us know in the comments below.

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