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The European Parliament’s Internal Market (IMCO) Committee is working on a proposal to make Intelligent Speed Assistance (ISA) a mandatory technology on all new vehicles from 2022.

On one side of the argument is the fact that this one measure could reduce road fatalities by 20 percent. On the other, a more sinister argument, that the ISA includes a tracking device, so your every move will be tracked, data submitted to be analysed and then potentially sold on to third parties. So how worried should we be?

What is Intelligent Speed Assistance (ISA)?

ISA is a driving aid that helps prevent vehicles exceeding the speed limit, with the use of a front-mounted camera and the car’s own Sat-Nav feature.

From 2022, the mandatory system’s default will be ‘on’, so that every time you switch on your car, the ISA will be functioning.

How does ISA work?

The front-mounted camera and the Sat-Nav will work together to pinpoint the vehicle and identify the correct speed limit. If the vehicle is exceeding the limit, the ISA will slow the car down by restricting fuel flow to the engine until the vehicle is driving at the correct speed. It will not, at any point, operate the brakes, ensuring a slow, smooth decrease in speed.

The system can be over-ridden by the driver pressing down firmly on the accelerator. However, by continuing to drive above the speed limit, the system will sound and display warnings.

Why do we need ISA?

According to the European Transport Safety Council (ETSC) speed is a significant problem in many European countries. Further, excessive or inappropriate speed accounts for one third of fatal collisions and is a significant factor in most collisions.

Graziella Jost, Projects Director of the European Transport Safety Council (ETSC) said: “500 people die every week on EU roads, a figure that has refused to budge for several years.  And driving too fast is still the number one killer.

“It’s very simple: if we want to bring down the number of road deaths, we have to tackle speed effectively.  Right now, the EU has a once-in-a-generation opportunity to make a massive difference.”

Tracking devices aren’t new

Many high performance cars are routinely fitted with tracking devices, usually Thatcham, for insurance purposes and in the case of locating the car if it’s stolen.

New UK drivers have been marketed ‘black box’ technology by insurance companies for a while, with the premise that if they have a black box fitted, then because their driving is being monitored, their insurance will reduce.

But the announcement from Mercedes, in August 2019, that all new and used cars sold by them were already fitted with tracking devices as standard, started alarm bells ringing.

Whilst tracking devices are not illegal, under current EU data protection laws, and specifically the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) that came into force in May 2018, tracking a car without the driver’s knowledge is illegal.

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Should we really be worried?

Whilst the ISA is a driving aid, that can help the driver stick to the speed limit and avoid fines, tracking devices are a different issue altogether.

The ‘black box’ tracking device will be able to record speed, driving behaviour, location and which safety features are being used,  either correctly or if at all.

According to the ETSC the electronic data recorders will be there to: “store vital data on the car’s status in the moments immediately before a collision.  Such information is vital to understanding why crashes occur and for preventing future collisions.”

However, there are concerns that this could start a ‘big brother’ style surveillance by police and the data could be exploited by insurance firms to turn down a claim if someone was shown to be driving at only slightly over the speed limit … and let’s face it, insurance companies don’t need much to turn down a claim!

In today’s world and the importance when it comes to cyber security, there’s also a concern that the systems could be used by hackers to spy on people and their movements.

The UK government have agreed to impose the ISA requirements, however with regard to the tracking devices, have repeatedly raised privacy concerns with European officials.

Now we want to hear from you?

What do you think about the new rules?

What are your views on the Intelligent Speed Assistance – good idea or not?

Similarly, when it comes to black box technology, good idea, or one more step towards Big Brother?

Let us know in the comments right now.