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Car speed limiters now mandatory in EU; UK likely to follow

GPS and sign recognition tech combine to provide soft limiter on public roads. Here’s everything you need to know


You might have heard that cars sold in the European Union are now being fitted with mandatory speed limiter technology – and that it seems inevitable that the systems will make their way over to the UK. But how exactly do these speed limiters work, and will they really stop us from being able to go above the signposted limit? As ever, cinch has the answers…

While we’re no longer subject to EU law, almost all cars sold here still conform to the same set of regulations that are enforced on the continent, meaning it’s only a matter of time before the new EU rule – which came into force this week – begins to impact UK-bound vehicles. Many UK cars already feature the GPS and traffic sign recognition technology that’s used by the new speed limiter software, but previously they haven’t needed to do anything if a driver is exceeding the limit.

Now, however, the EU has made it mandatory that the technology works to prevent a driver going above the speed limit, by cutting the car’s power. As a car approaches the signposted limit, it’ll gradually stop accelerating, providing a soft limiter. Don’t be fooled into thinking this is an EU-only law; the tech was actually supported by the UK’s Department for Transport before we left the trading bloc, with the claim that road deaths could be cut by a fifth once it’s widely rolled out. The speed limiters come as part of wider safety-focused plans, with the EU targeting zero road traffic deaths by 2050.


That’s all well and good (who doesn’t want safer roads?), but questions as to whether the technology is reliable enough yet have been raised. GPS signal can be lost, and traffic sign recognition tech isn’t foolproof. The new limiter law accepts that, and does allow a driver to override the tech, either by pressing harder on the accelerator to ‘push through' the soft limiter, or to manually turn the system off via a button (or touchscreen menu page). But what makes the limiter significant is the fact it automatically switches back on when you next start the car.

No doubt this’ll be music to the ears of residents who live by busy roads and many more, but some are concerned by the prospect of a system that could cut power – even if only briefly – while you’re overtaking. Lawmakers will no doubt have considered this prospect, but we’ll need to wait until these systems reach Britain before being able to fully understand exactly how they work in such scenarios. Expect makers of sporty cars – like Porsche and Jaguar – to do their best in making ‘limiter off’ buttons easily accessible, as they already do with the stop/start tech switches…

By Sam Sheehan