This post first appeared as the NMA E-Newsletter #532 in March 2019.
In three years, all new cars and light-trucks purchased in EU countries will be required to include standard price-increasing features that will change how motorists drive. Members of the European Parliament’s Committee on Internal Market and Consumer Protection voted in February to approve a range of new vehicle safety standards initially proposed by the European Commission a year ago.
According to the EU website, even though European roads are the safest in the world, the number of traffic deaths are still too high. This is why the EU has adopted Vision Zero and this “safe system” approach. Supporter and Member of Parliament Róża Thun of Poland said that the safety of road users, especially unprotected ones, has been the focus in making the new vehicle features mandatory.
The other focus according to a written statement from the committee: ”Making advanced safety features mandatory for vehicles should help drivers to get accustomed to the new features gradually and should enhance public trust and acceptance in the transition toward autonomous driving.”
Vision Zero began in Sweden in 1997; getting us out of our cars under the guise of safety seems to have always been the goal. Mandatory devices that limit the freedom and choices of motorists are the next step in swaddling drivers and passengers.
Many of the proposed features are close to becoming standard on new cars already. In the US, however, these devices are NOT mandatory and can either be ordered as options when purchasing a vehicle and/or the features can be turned off.
These types of features include advanced emergency braking systems (AEBS), advanced driver distraction warning (cameras inside the car) lane-departure warning systems, reversing detection, tire pressure monitoring systems, and Event Data Recorders (EDRs or Black box crash recorders). Many drivers like these add-ons while others do not.
What’s not so Good
The EU is also mandating intelligent speed assistance devices (ISA) or speed limiters that are connected to both GPS-linked navigation and camera inputs to detect posted speeds. With ISA, cars could not exceed the speed limit under any circumstances.
The other mandatory element that is problematic: Every new car would include an alcohol interlock installation facilitation. The driver’s blood alcohol content could potentially be checked by breathalyzer or by tactile sensors. The mandate would mean no driver could start a car without passing the electronic testing.
US safety advocates are already pushing mandatory Interlock installation for new cars. On March 14, 2019, former National Highway Traffic Safety Administration administrator Joan Claybrook testified before the US House Consumer Protection and Commerce Subcommittee urging passage of a law that would require automakers to include passive ignition-interlock systems in all new motor vehicles within as little as three years. She also urged Congress to follow the EU’s example and mandate a host of “safety” devices for new US vehicles.
The European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association Secretary General Erik Jonnaert said that his group supports the broad range of safety measures, but just not immediately. He added, “Auto manufacturers are concerned about the proposed time between the entry into force of the regulation and the moment it applies…this should be aligned with product-development time in a pragmatic way, allowing at least 36 months before application.”
Volvo has gone so far as stating that it will place a governor in all new cars beginning with the 2021 model year that will cap top speeds at 112 mph or 180 km/hr. On March 20, 2019, Volvo announced the company will install cameras inside new cars to monitor driver behavior and intervene if the driver appears to be drunk or distracted. TheVerge.com called this a risky move for an automaker, even one with a reputation for safety such as Volvo, because it raises privacy concerns. Several years ago, the company enacted a plan called Vision 2020 with the idea no one would be killed or seriously injured by a Volvo by that year.
Make no mistake about the motives here. When the news broke about the EU vote, US safety advocates were beyond excited, and Streetsblog USA pondered the question in a post why these kinds of mandates are not yet required in the US.
Vision Zero proponents want to rein in irresponsible, that is, all (in their minds) motorists by literally limiting speed, choice, privacy and personal responsibility. The war on cars and on drivers is heating up.