Select Committee on Transport, Local Government and the Regions Ninth Report

Car design and engineering

98. There are a number of changes in vehicle design and engineering which could bring about reductions in speed. Some are small; others could transform the way we drive. Two, in particular, were brought to our attention. They are:

- changes to the speedometer to mark speed limits more clearly; and

- intelligent speed adaption;


99. RoSPA observed that:

"modern cars provide a smooth, quiet drive, even at high speeds, and therefore drivers are often insulated from any real sensation of the speed at which they are is very easy to creep above the speed limit...Manufacturers should consider how they can design cars so that drivers have more awareness and receive better information about their actual speed...For example, the design of the speedometer is often very unhelpful...Placing 30 mph in the 12 o'clock position on the speedometer dial might raise drivers' awareness of their speed, particularly on urban roads".[168]

We recommend that type approval for speedometers be amended so as to provide for designs which make drivers more aware of the 30 mph speed limit. We also urge the industry to develop further use of digital speedometers to ensure that more accurate information is given to drivers.


100. Intelligent Speed Adaption (ISA) is a system by which the vehicle 'knows' the permitted or recommended speed for a road. The standard system "uses an in-vehicle digital road map onto which speed limits have been coded, combined with a [satellite] positioning system".[169] The system can be advisory, voluntary (the driver can allow the system to determine the speed or not) or mandatory (ie the driver cannot override the system which controls the car). ISA can inform the vehicle of the posted speed limits or could be variable (additional limits are introduced at danger spots such as dangerous corners) or dynamic (dynamic refers to a system which responds to road conditions rather than just the posted speed limit; eg. implementing lower speed limits to take account of weather, proximity to schools etc.).[170]

101. Dr Carsten informed the Committee of the findings of the External Vehicle Speed Control Project, which took place from 1997 to 2000. The study included using a driving simulator, road trials, computer models and interviews with volunteers. The road trials "required volunteer drivers to drive a predetermined route in a car equipped with an ISA system". The mandatory dynamic system was most effective, predicted to reduce fatal accidents by 59%. Predictions from a study in Sweden were similar. The voluntary system, however, was preferred by drivers because it gave them greater control. Cost/benefit analysis showed massive advantages in ISA. The Project proposed that a mandatory system be the ultimate objective, which it suggested could be in place by 2019.[171] A new project began in 2001. Its prime objective "is to place 20 ISA passenger cars on the road with four groups of volunteers for...six months at a time and to measures any changes in their driving behaviour".[172]

102. There were differing opinions about how ISA should be applied, but general agreement that its development should be encouraged.[173] The AA supported the Government's programme, but opposed its early use in a mandatory form.[174] The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders noted that further development had the potential to improve road safety, but added that they remained at an early stage and there were significant technical and legal issues to be overcome.[175] It should develop from being a voluntary aid before it can be proposed in a mandatory form.

103. The External Vehicle Control Project set out a timetable for the implementation of ISA. This included:

- mandatory fitting on vehicles within the European Union by 2013;

- voluntary use between 2013 and 2019; and

- potentially mandatory usage from 2019.[176]

Dr Carsten argued that regardless of whether ISA was eventually made mandatory it was important to be in a position to use ISA in some form or other.[177] He made a number of recommendations to this end. They were supported by several other witnesses.[178] In the long run Intelligent Speed Adaption offers the opportunity to put an end to illegal and inappropriate speed. The Government should strongly support this technology by:

- continuing to fund research, including the projected trials from 2002 to 2006;

- encouraging voluntary adoption by fleet managers and providing tax incentives to those who do;

- establishing a Europe-wide requirement that all new vehicles sold from 2013 should have an ISA capability; and

- fund the development of a digital road map to ensure that the information needed to make ISA successful is easily available.

168   RTS 16. Back

169   The memorandum from Dr Carsten of the University of Leeds describes the system, the trials which have been undertaken, and their results (RTS 39); and see Annex 6 of the DTLR memo (RTS 49). Back

170   RTS39. Back

171   RTS 39 Back

172   DTLR Annex 6. Back

173   Eg see RoSPA (RTS 16). Back

174   RTS 48. Back

175   RTS 140. Back

176   RTS39. Back

177   RTS39. Back

178   Eg., see PACTS (RTS 14). Back

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