Monday, 11 May 2009

Unsafe at any speed

Intelligent Speed Adaption. If you've never heard of it, you will do soon. And you'll also have to put up with the high-handed crap that surrounds it. So allow me to fill you in.

ISA (which is surely a tax-free savings account) is a combination of GPS technology and a passenger that keeps telling you you're breaking the speed limit. A system is currently on test by TfL that only works within the boundary of the M25. The system uses GPS to work out which road you are on, and has a built-in database of all of the speed limits for all of the roads in the area it covers. You can either get the device to inform you whether you are going over the limit or not (by means of an in-no-way-patronising smiley or frowny face), or to actively control your vehicle's acceleration and breaking to make sure that it's completely impossible to break the limit.

Chris Lines, head of TfL's road safety unit, said: "This innovative technology could help any driver avoid the unnecessary penalties of creeping over the speed limit and at the same time will save lives."

Chris Lines is a fucking moron.

What the device really will do is stop drivers from thinking. What it will do is enforce the incorrect belief that if you're not breaking the speed limit, you can't cause an accident. But that's okay, because the current government clearly thinks that already. The number of speed cameras that are popping up - despite having no effect on the number of road casualties in the areas they appear - is testiment to that.

So is the fact that Chris Lines himself describes them as "unnecessary penalties". Creeping over the speed limit because you're - for example - driving past a school and paying more attention to whether any children are running out in front of your car then you are to the exact position of the needle on your speedometer should not be penalised by a machine that can't determine context: a speed camera.

What is more dangerous: a car travelling at 85mph on a clear, empty, dry motorway; or a car travelling at 60mph on a wet motorway with virtually no visibility whilst being about 10cm away from the back-end of the car in front of it?

Obviously it is the latter. But speed cameras and the ISA system will only prevent the former.

The government can't ban cars - fuel and road taxes generate too much money - but they clearly want to make them so unusable that we won't bother with them. If public transport in this country wasn't so utterly laughable, they might succeed. Too many people need their cars, because there is no viable alternative.

Except one.

And that presents itself to us at the next general election.


  1. Also, a system that turns on people's lights for them when in torrential rain or dark conditions during daytime would be good - those are dangerous morons too - especially on the motorway!

  2. Mercedes fit just such as system to their higher-spec cars at the moment. You just leave the lights in "AUTO" and let the car prevent you from looking like a tit in heavy rain on the motorway.

  3. Good post, Steve. I'm convinced that ISA would actually make the roads more dangerous by encouraging drivers to take the view that the choice of a safe speed had been taken out of their hands.