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Mandatory speed limiters have arrived in the UK: what this means for you

  • EU has mandated intelligent speed limiters
  • Affect all cars sold from 6 July 2022
  • Autonomous emergency braking and data loggers also required

Written by Keith Adams Published: 27 March 2019 Updated: 20 November 2023

Speed limiters are now a legal requirement for all new cars sold in Europe. From Wednesday 6th July 2022, all manufacturers are officially required to integrate smart speed limiting technology called Intelligent Speed Assist or Assistance (ISA). Part of a suite of advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), the legislation includes Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB), Lane Keep Assist and reversing cameras too.

This is an EU regulation which, despite Brexit, is being ratified into UK law as well. It also requires a data logger, which will monitor your journeys and potentially send information to your insurer, to be fitted and this is set to change the way many of us drive our cars. 

This article will explain all you need to know about speed-limiting technology and what these regulations will mean for UK drivers in 2022.

What Intelligent Speed Assistance (ISA)?

To date, any driver with a speed limiter will know that, like cruise control, you initiate the feature, then manually set the car to the speed you don’t want to exceed. It’s a pretty helpful feature, especially for tackling miles of ‘Average 50’ zones. When you press down on the accelerator, it won’t let you increase the speed past what you’ve set it to and/or an alarm will sound until you’re back below the threshold set.

The new mandated technology is a little bit different. Using a combination of road sign recognition and GPS navigation data, the car detects the speed of the road and then won’t allow the driver to exceed the limit for more than a few seconds. 

Graphic denoting driver instrument cluster with speedo, rev counter against a cloudy blue sky and 60mph sign in background
Graphic denoting driver instrument cluster with speedo, rev counter against a cloudy blue sky and 60mph sign in background

How does speed limiter technology work?

The technology will use some of the sensors used in cruise control and when it detects the car is exceeding the speed limit, it will do four things in escalation:

  • Flash a visual reminder of the speed limit to encourage drivers to slow down
  • Sound an alarm to alert the driver that the speed limit is being exceeded and use vibrations on the accelerator to send a message to the driver
  • Sound a more urgent alarm, speak at the driver and/or apply pressure against the driver’s right foot to force the driver to lift off
  • Take control of the brakes and apply them until the car is complying with the speed limit

Will my car stop me from speeding?

In short, yes. But it won’t affect you immediately and there could be a workaround. 

All new cars made from that July 2022 date need to be fitted with the technology, but the new cars that have already been launched this year, without ISA, have until 2024 to have the tech fitted. That said, it is believed that Ford and Volvo have both been integrating the devices into their vehicles and just not yet activating them.

Speaking of activation, it’s also worth noting that the feature can be disabled if the driver wishes. So like seat belts, while this feature is mandatory for production, there’s no stipulation to have it activated. At least, for the moment.

Smart motorway
Speed limiters know the speed limit at any moment on any road – in theory.

Can I deactivate the speed limiter?

Known as ‘nagging’, plenty of organisations have made comment about how irritating all this nannying by the vehicle can be. Deactivating the system will vary car by car, but will most likely be nested deep within some menu to discourage you to disengage the feature. 

It’s a fair question. However, as mentioned above, there’s now going to be a data logger fitted. If there’s an accident and the black box shows the feature was disabled and the speed was excessive, drivers may invalidate their insurance.

What’s more, from 2024, it is expected that the choice to deactivate will be removed.

How will ISA affect my insurance?

It isn’t confirmed yet, but it’s highly likely your premiums will go down. A spokesperson for the Association of British Insurers says: ‘Motor insurers support measures aimed at improving road safety. Any steps that can be shown to make our roads safer, reducing road crashes and insurance claims, can be reflected in the cost of motor insurance.’

Autonomous emergency braking (AEB) has been shown to reduce collisions by some 25%. It is also being mandated at the same time, despite the fact that many new cars already provide this technology as standard.

Needless to say, this whole exercise is about road safety. A lot of countries have committed to Vision Zero, which is all about zero fatalities on the road.

Speed sign recognition
Speed limiter tech uses cameras to spot speed signs, but doesn’t always get it right.

Is speed limiter technology that reliable?

No, not entirely and that’s another big criticism of legislation. If you’ve been in any new car recently, even just the basics of recognising the road signs accurately doesn’t come without problems. 

Numerous examples of the car saying 80 in a 30, which is sometimes where the car’s camera is picking up the sign on the back of a lorry from the EU, rather than the one on the side of the road. 

There’s also other complaints from manufacturers like Tesla, where the regulation states the visual warning should be given in the driver’s direct eye-line. The centre console screen of the Tesla Model 3 is the only place Tesla can display this information without redesigning its cockpit.

Will the ISA apply to Britain despite Brexit?

Yes, the Department for Transport (DoT) has confirmed that the systems would also apply in the UK, despite Brexit. Not only is it really expensive to make different cars for different markets—history has shown that if one authority regulates on seat belts, air bags or catalytic converters, standards are usually adopted on a global level—but the UK has always been a pioneer for road safety and aims to champion autonomous driving in Europe. 

How does data logging work?                         

If you have an accident, and it’s down to your speeding or erratic driving, the data logger in your car will capture this, and report it back to anyone investigating the accident.

A data logger uses a combination of GPS and in-car sensors to determine speed, and position of the car, as well as how hard you’ve been braking or cornering. if you’re proven to be speeding or driving erratically, the police will have greater opportunity to prosecute you.

Since there are huge implications around privacy, it’ll be interesting to see how this part of the legislation will be used.

Speed sign recognition
ISA tech records data about a journey, as well as monitoring speed limits.