Are Speed Limiters Coming to American Cars?


Svitlana Pimenov/

Carscoops is reminding us that a law passed in 2019 is mandating that new cars introduced after 2022 must be fitted with speed limiters.

Here’s the good news, at least for us Yanks and Canucks — the law was passed by the European Union and applies to, well, Europe.

That said, Carscoops is sounding the alarm. Could speed limiters come to North America?

To be clear, the limiters don’t appear to make it physically impossible for drivers to go over the speed limit, but rather the tech uses things like flashing lights to get the driver’s attention so he/she can slow down.

While we applaud efforts to reduce accidents, we find tech limiting speed at this level to be a bridge too far. It’s one thing for automakers to limit speed at levels we’d never even attempt to attain on public roads — lots of cars are capped by the factory, usually at 155 — or to set a speed limiter to match the tires’ speed rating. It’s another to be this heavy-handed.

The tech supposedly uses a combo of GPS and traffic-sign recognition, and we’d point out that sometimes both technologies fail. We also don’t like the idea of having our speed clipped without providing for context — even those who mostly maintain the limit occasionally climb above to execute a pass more safely. And do I want my car screaming at me during a medical emergency that requires me to drive faster?

I get it. There are some birdbrains out there doing 50 in 25 mph residential zones where kids are playing, and that’s not cool. But context matters. Ten over on the interstate is less objectionable — and probably less dangerous — than 10 over in the congested city. And drivers should be able to make that choice for themselves, without a safety nanny scolding them.

Carscoops’ actual evidence for the emergence of this tech in America is thin — the site cites a video from a British motoring journalist and also makes the “hey it could happen here, but there’s no strong evidence it will” argument. I realize I could be simply aggregating a blog that’s mind to catch clicks on a slow news day in our own attempt to have content (and thus catch clicks).

Or this could be one of those creeping privacy invasions this site is constantly screaming about. Remember, even if the feds never do something like this, it could, in theory, be done at the state level, though I’d imagine OEMs would kick and scream to avoid building cars both for states with and without speed limiters, because of the extra cost of building vehicles with separate tech for differing states.

I can’t foresee these coming to America (or Canada). But we’ll keep a wary eye out just the same.

[Image: Svitlana Pimenov/]

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