European Parliament Approves Speed Limiters, Built-In Breathalyzers and Data Recorders for Cars, Safer Designs for Trucks

Public Domain. European Commission

None of which we will ever see in North America because freedom.

When I last wrote about Intelligent Speed Assistance (ISA), the polite term for speed limiters, I concluded that it "will never happen. The voters would put on their yellow vests and would throw out any politician who brought them in." In fact, the European Parliament just approved a whole list of new regulations that includes ISA:

  1. For cars, vans, trucks and buses: warning of driver drowsiness and distraction (e.g. smartphone use while driving), intelligent speed assistance, reversing safety with camera or sensors, and data recorder in case of an accident (‘black box').
  2. For cars and vans: lane-keeping assistance, advanced emergency braking, and crash-test improved safety belts.
  3. For trucks and buses: specific requirements to improve the direct vision of bus and truck drivers and to remove blind spots, and systems at the front and side of the vehicle to detect and warn of vulnerable road users, especially when making turns.
Public Domain. European Transport Safety Council

European Transport Safety Council/Public DomainThere were a lot of objections to the ISA, so an over-ride was approved; you can stomp on the gas for passing, and there will be a 'black box' recording your actions. As Theo Leggett of the BBC notes,

So if you have an accident, the police and your insurance company will know whether you've been going too fast. If you've been keeping your foot down and routinely ignoring the car's warnings, they may take a very dim view of your actions. In fact, it's this "spy on board" which may ultimately have a bigger impact on driver behaviour than any kind of speed limiter. It's easy to get away with reckless driving when there's only a handful of traffic cops around to stop you. Much harder when there's a spy in the cab recording your every move.
Most of this is supposed to be in place by 2022, which is pretty quick. Some design changes that require major structural makeovers, like the enlarged head impact zones, will follow a bit later. But as Commissioner Elżbieta Bieńkowska notes in the press release:
Every year, 25,000 people lose their lives on our roads. The vast majority of these accidents are caused by human error. 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. Many of the new features already exist, in particular in high–end vehicles. Now we raise the safety level across the board, and pave the way for connected and automated mobility of the future.

Trucks are getting a makeover, too.

EU truck regulations

European Commission/Public DomainLost in all the news about ISA are the new regulations for trucks, including a 'direct vision' standard. Large trucks make up only 2 percent of the vehicles on European roads but are responsible for 15 percent of road deaths, so under the new rules they will have much bigger windshields for greater visibility and crumple zones to give people who walk and cycle a better chance of survival. These measures, along with a curvier shape to reduce drag and improve fuel economy, take up space so the legal cab length will be increased by about three feet. According to Samuel Kenny of Transport and Environment,

“This law ensures truckmakers design vehicles in a way that the driver can actually see what’s happening around their vehicle. It will prevent deaths simply because drivers will have direct sight of pedestrians, cyclists and other vehicles. The benefits will especially be felt in cities where road users are in close proximity with trucks.”

Econic in London with cyclist

© Mercedes EconicSome of these measures for cars will filter down into the North American market, as American car makers often try to meet Euro requirements. SUVs, pickups and trucks are another matter, where manufacturers studiously ignore European regulations and the vehicles kill at three times the rate of cars. And we can't even get side guards made mandatory on trucks.

GMC Denali

GMC Denali Torchinsky Scale 10 BP scale 10/CC BY 1.0After all, pedestrians and cyclists shouldn't be in the road anyway, so it's their own fault. And these chrome grilles are really manly.