London cab & bus trials for satnav speed-governor kit
'Satellites will turn us all into ZOMBIES!'
London government plans for self-adjusting speed governing kit, capable of automatically keeping a vehicle below the local speed limit, are advancing. Trials in the capital will take place this summer.
The equipment in question is known as Intelligent Speed Adaptation (ISA), and has been under development since at least 2007 when the Reg last reported on it. ISA works out the speed limit for the road it's on by using GPS satnav to locate the vehicle on its onboard speed-limit map. It can then either warn the driver in the case of speeding, or if set to do so cut the throttle if the vehicle accelerates through the legal maximum. The system has no braking authority.
TfL envisage ISA initially being deployed on buses, cabs and so forth - perhaps from 2010. The transport authority believes that it would have significant effects in reducing fatal accidents, noting that most such occur in areas with a 30mph limit or less. The six-month trial starting this summer will see the gear fitted to a bus, a black cab and another 20 vehicles used by TfL road engineers, traffic managers and highway inspectors.
Use on private vehicles would be optional, and probably not very widespread. However, TfL does suggest that there could be incentives in the near term for private drivers to have it fitted - for instance there might be scope to reduce licence points or avoid driving bans. There are already TfL congestion-charging exemptions and free parking for other kinds of vehicle technology the authority wishes to encourage, such as hybrid or electric vehicles.
Pleasingly for those primarily worried about privacy, the system offers little scope for surveillance as it doesn't inform any offboard systems of the vehicle's location. A TfL spokesman told the Reg today that in future the equipment might include a mobile data channel for map updates, but "we haven't decided" even on that, and in any event such a channel wouldn't be designed for upload of any vehicle data or records. Nor would the ISA box keep any such records on board, according to TfL:
Note the devices do not store any information regarding location, time or any other variable, including driver speed over the length of a journey.
Compared to the sort of kit being discussed for purposes of national road pricing/"managed motorway" schemes, ISA would have little or no privacy and surveillance implications.
"Remember, there's no such thing as a safe zombie."
It might still be annoying to drivers, however, though at the moment there's no suggestion of ISA ever being compulsory for private motorists. Nonetheless, most London drivers would be affected by buses, cabs or other fleet vehicles fitted with ISA ahead of them.
Universally-fitted ISA might actually be popular with some drivers, as it could allow the removal of extremely irritating speed bumps and chicanes - without any need for a surveillance-panopticon numberplate-cam speed enforcement network as suggested by erstwhile London mayor Ken Livingstone.
According to Andrew Howard, safety honcho at the AA: “Drivers are divided in their views of intelligent speed adaptation - some hate it, some want it. Many have questions that will be answered only by trials like those being carried out by TfL.
“The AA welcomes these trials."
The anti-speedcam group Safe Speed predictably came out strongly against ISA, issuing a statement saying (verbatim):
With ISA ordinary motorists will turn into zombies with their foot planted to the floor, trusting the satellite to control their speed. They will not be as ready to deal road hazards. They will behave like zombies...
Problems like it resetting itself, leaving motorists in neutral, or slowing during in an overtake, as it changed from one posted limit to the next, leaving the car behind, nearly rear ending the car in front, making all road users, and drivers vulnerable to it's 'intelligence' systems, and making for highly dangerous maneuvers
Making cars go slower will not help with congestion, but add to it. Nor will turning drivers into 'zombies', make them have less accidents, but more.
Satellite speed control is anything but intelligent. Remember there is no such thing as a safe zombie...
Reduced traffic speeds DO NOT give drivers more time to react.
There's more on ISA from TfL here, including a downloadable London speed-limit map and developer details for satnav systems and GIS apps. Those with compatible satnavs can try out ISA code as beta testers, too. ®