Municipalities using photo radar to control speeders in designated areas always draw criticism, but the death toll to vulnerable road users continues unabated.
In Cologne, Germany, Ford is testing out the use of existing technology – geofencing – to solve the stubborn problem of speeding. Consider driving into a school zone with reduced speed limits. Some drivers don’t care, some don’t see the signs, many are distracted.
Ford’s Geofencing Speed Limit Control system automatically responds to the lowered limit and brings a driver’s speed into line. If we can’t rely on drivers to do the right thing, and photo radar is sporadic or controversial, surely this is the unbiased solution to making our roads safer.
The technology has been available for years. “Driver assistance technologies such as Ford’s Intelligent Speed Assist and Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop & Go already help ensure drivers do not exceed speed limits,” says the automaker, but this new twist on the tech is “is potentially more flexible and effective.”
For a year, Ford engineers in Palo Alto worked with city officials in both Cologne and Aachen using a prototype electric E-Transit van. While “the vehicle automatically reduces speed in line with the geofenced zone,” the driver “can override the system and deactivate the speed limit control at any time.”
As lawmakers struggle with preventing spiking death and injuries, and well-intended programs like Vision Zero continue to deliver less-than-great results, how much control do we consider handing over to our vehicles? Some jurisdictions, like this one in New Zealand, are already entertaining or using things like remote car stopping to aid police and end chases. Immobilization technology is already used by some car financing companies, too, but who gets to decide when a car can be remotely brought to a halt?
Many vehicles already have built-in warnings when speed limits change, as do most apps like Waze. But whether or not a driver adjusts their speed accordingly is ultimately up to the driver, and the threat of photo radar which may or may not be there.
In an environment of people yelling about their freedoms, it will be interesting to see who would argue geofencing, as being tested by Ford, as anything but a panacea for the carnage playing out on too many city streets.