No More “Speeding” For You!

Ford's new S-Max technology can read speed limit signs and automatically slow down the car.
By Eric Peters, Automotive Columnist

Someday — and that day might be closer than you want to know — we’ll look back fondly on speed traps.

Because at least you could speed. Give the finger — via the accelerator pedal — to ridiculous, dumbed-down/one-size-fits-all velocity maximums laid down by bureaucrats whose prime directive always seems to be to suck the joy out of everything, especially driving.

Sometimes, of course, you’d get caught — and fined.

But most of the time you could “get away” with it. (Kind of like the way people used to be able to “get away” with not buying health insurance, if they decided it wasn’t something they needed.)

Tomorrow, you may not be able to “speed” even if you wanted to.

Because your car will not allow you to.

The uber governor — Ford’s Intelligent Speed Limiter — will see to that.

It uses cameras and GPS mapping technology to keep track of the speed limit in real time — that is, as you drive — on whatever road you happen to be on at any given moment and — by dialing back the throttle — prevents the vehicle from exceeding it. Mash the pedal all you like. Resistance is, indeed, futile.

Some of us saw this coming.

A few months back, I did an article (Heebie Jeebies) about what I suspected was on deck.

I began to notice that the new cars I was getting to test drive and review that had GPS (which these days is almost all of them) were aware of my speeding. The GPS map that shows the road you’re on also told you (oh-so-helpfully) the speed limit on that road. A little icon that looked exactly like a white with black numerals roadside speed limit sign popped up — and stayed up — as you drove. It changed as the speed limit changed. 55 to 45 to 35 — and so on.

Interesting.

Even more interesting was the next step.

I noticed one day that if I drove faster than the posted limit, the little icon immediately turned angry red. The car knew I was speeding. And almost certainly by exactly how much. Every new car — every car built since the mid-’90s — has wheel speed sensors (a component of the ABS, which virtually all modern cars have and have had for more than a decade at least) as well as OBD II — On Board Diagnostics — which knows pretty much everything about how the car is driven, including its speed at any given moment..

This data is also stored in the car’s Event Data Recorder, or “black box” (recently mandated by the government) and can be accessed without your consent by third parties — the coppers, the insurance mafia — and will be used against you.)

In the earlier article, I noted that the technology already exists (and its adoption is being pushed) to real-time monitor your velocity. It would be as simple turning a light switch for the insurance mafia — or the coppers — to fine you (or “adjust” your premiums) for every single instance of “speeding.” Most new cars — and most cars built within the past five years or so — already have the necessary technology to narc you out.

Short of disabling the car’s send-and-receive data telemetry capability, there would be, as they say, no way out.

But at least you could still speed. Damn the torpedoes and you know the rest.

Ford’s system will put a stop to that.

And perhaps, more. The same technology that prevents you from “speeding” could just as easily prevent you — well, your car — from moving at all. Perhaps to impose a conservation regime; perhaps to reduce the output of not-“green” gasses. Maybe because you didn’t pay “your” (don’t you love the language?) taxes … .

Whether you think the government would ever do such a thing is beside the point.

The point is — they absolutely could.

Intelligent Speed Limiter will be installed on European market Fords next year and — bet your tailpipe — U.S. Fords soon after.

And if you’re thinking — well, I just won’t buy a Ford, then — think again. Other manufacturers are working on similar systems of their own. GM, for example, will be installing a “vehicle to vehicle” (V2V) communication system in 2017 model year Cadillacs, according to inside sources. Your Cadillac would slow down — on its own, without any input from you — if its computer brain so decided after e-chatting with another Cadillac down the road somewhere. Or because it — like the Ford — knew what the speed limit is and decided you ought not to exceed it.

Remember: The technology I told you about in the earlier article — written back in late summer of last year — is already de facto standard in every new car that has GPS. It is a not-far jump to the next step, which will either be real-time monitoring (and fining) of drivers for each instance of “speeding.” Or — the step after that — “speeding” will become a technical impossibility, at least in a new car.

Now, to be fair, Ford’s system will — at first — have an “off” switch. Kind of like being able — for now — to “opt out” of being body-scanned (and possibly, irradiated) when you fly. But this is almost certainly a temporary reprieve. It’s necessary to get people used to something unpleasant; don’t hit them with it all at once. The frog in the pot. Most Americans are now resigned to “papers, please” checkpoints and to random, probable cause-free searches. Inconceivable 20 years ago. And — for the most part — they have embraced all the necessary technological building blocks being built into new cars to make what’s coming not only likely but inevitable.

Well, there are always old cars… until, of course, they illegalize them.

Probably by characterizing them as unsafe.

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5 Responses to “No More “Speeding” For You!”

  1. Bruce Liddel says:

    Full Disclosure: While I am not an employee of Ford, I do work at a Ford assembly plant. The opinions expressed herein are my own, and not those of Ford.

    I don't care for the idea of a car that controls me. It merits mention that the Ford S-Max is so far the only model that will be so equipped, and it will be sold only in Europe. Perhaps this feature will prove unpopular enough that they will not put the feature in other models.

    I have no sway with the company, but I do fervently hope Ford will keep the Intelligent Speed Limiter out of the GT, which returns to limited production in 2016.

  2. Scott klein says:

    There are times when it would be useful to speed, even if only for a short burst of time. For instance, I have actually avoided a few accidents by speeding. And I've read or heard of, and actually once been involved in, instances where someone full of road rage was chasing someone else. In that instance, I sure would like to be able to go as fast as possible to get away from the lunatic. And what if someone wanted to bring their car out for a track day or autocross event?

  3. Mike McCarthy says:

    "Mash the pedal all you like. Resistance is, indeed, futile."

    "Adjustable Speed Limiter Device (ASLD) allows the driver to set a speed limit that cannot be exceeded by standard gas pedal operation. The driver can override the limit, however, by pressing the accelerator pedal beyond normal usage limits (>90 percent pedal travel). ASLD is offered on select Ford Motor Company vehicles in Europe and China."

    "Now, to be fair, Ford’s system will — at first — have an 'off' switch. Kind of like being able — for now — to 'opt out' of being body-scanned (and possibly, irradiated) when you fly. But this is almost certainly a temporary reprieve. It’s necessary to get people used to something unpleasant; don’t hit them with it all at once."

    Yes, let's be "fair." Let's even offer some evidence that "intelligent" drive-by-computer will always be engaged. Let's offer some evidence that engineers have figured out how to keep cars in lanes (and STILL avoid hazards undetected by sensors). Let's offer some evidence that speed/braking will ALWAYS be smarter than human beings in emergencies. Let's offer some evidence that ANYONE believes 100% automated driving is inevitable, and coming soon.

    "I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that."

  4. Brother John says:

    Leftist and statist and nanny types *hate* cars. They hatehatehateHATE cars. Everything possible has been done to demonize them, to smear "car culture;" from attaching the idea of "compensation" to an expensive, fast car, to clucking and running around and waving their arms in the air about your SUV causing "climate change," both of which are nonsensical.

    At the same time, they're perfectly willing to chuck away billions of dollars on AmTrak and other "mass-transit" outside and between big cities that no one wants, always lose money, and always leave taxpayers on the hook.

    Could it be that cars represent freedom and liberty, and those sorts of people can't handle that?

  5. Jim Walker says:

    One important problem with this system is that driving at or below the posted limit gives you a MUCH higher crash risk in many places. When the posted limit is set 10 or 15 or in some cases even 20 mph below the safety-optimum 85th percentile speed of free flowing traffic under good conditions, then driving at or below the limit puts you in the bottom 30% or 20% or sometimes in the bottom 5% of the traffic flow. That is a LOT more dangerous than going along with the great majority of other vehicles.

    Google cars have the same problem.