Is America Ready for Federal Mandates on Speed Reduction Technology in New Cars?

Is America Ready for Federal Mandates on Speed Reduction Technology in New Cars?

In January 2022, a tragic accident occurred in Las Vegas when a 2018 Dodge Challenger ran through a stop sign, reached a speed of 103 miles per hour, and ran a red light, resulting in a collision with a Toyota Sienna minivan. The minivan, carrying seven passengers, was hit on the right side, causing additional vehicles to crash. Unfortunately, all occupants of both vehicles lost their lives in the accident.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), a U.S. government agency responsible for investigating such incidents, conducted an investigation and concluded that intelligent speed-assist technology (ISA) could have potentially reduced the severity of this tragedy. The driver of the Dodge, who was found to have cocaine and PCP in their system, which impaired their decision-making, had a history of breaking the speed limit.

The NTSB is now advocating for ISA to be a standard feature in all new vehicles to prevent unnecessary deaths. The agency believes that relying solely on states to address driver speeding and recidivism is inadequate. Although the NTSB does not have regulatory power, it is urging the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to mandate the use of this technology in all future vehicles.

NTSB Chair Jennifer Homendy stated, “We know the key to saving lives is redundancy, which can protect all of us from human error that occurs on our roads. What we lack is the collective will to act on NTSB safety recommendations.”

ISA technology utilizes a vehicle’s GPS location and compares it to a database of posted speed limits, using onboard cameras to determine the legal speed limit. Passive ISA systems warn drivers when they exceed the speed limit through various alerts, leaving the driver responsible for reducing their speed. Active systems, on the other hand, may limit or prevent a vehicle from exceeding the posted speed limit.

While some Americans may be resistant to the idea of an active ISA system due to concerns about limiting freedom, the NTSB argues that speeding is a major cause of traffic-related deaths. According to recent NHTSA data, nearly one-third of all traffic-related fatalities are directly attributable to speeding.

Interestingly, Europe has already mandated ISA technology for all new vehicles as of 2022. Volvo has recently announced that their EX30 electric vehicle with Google Built-in will have a passive ISA system, making it compliant with European regulations. Google Built-in utilizes Maps for accurate speed limit information.

In response to the Las Vegas crash, the NTSB has requested that 17 automakers, including BMW, Ford, General Motors, Honda, and VW, equip new vehicles with speed-assistance features. The agency recommends at least a speed warning system, but would support more comprehensive measures.

The NTSB has previously urged the NHTSA to incentivize ISA adoption through a New Car Assessment Program in 2017. Currently, the NHTSA is reviewing public comments and is expected to make a final decision on the matter in 2023.

The NTSB has also suggested that the NHTSA research and develop guidelines to help states implement pilot ISA programs that limit vehicle speed for repeat offenders. New York has already conducted a pilot program and is considering legislation on this issue.

Considering the increasing adoption of advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) in new vehicles, having a passive ISA system seems like a logical addition. Lawmakers have also introduced legislation for driver monitoring systems, which can detect driver fatigue, inattention, or impairment and take appropriate action.

TechCrunch has reached out to the NHTSA for further information on the status of the potential ISA mandate.