NTSB eyes speed limiters on passenger vehciles

As the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration explores a potential speed limiter mandate for heavy-duty trucks, another government agency is calling for similar technology on new passenger vehicles, including pickups and vans. 

The National Transportation Safety Board investigation into a multi-vehicle crash in North Las Vegas last year that resulted in nine fatalities has led the board to recommend a requirement for “intelligent speed assistance technology” in new vehicles. 

The board issued the recommendations Tuesday at a public board meeting after determining the crash was caused by “excessive speed, drug-impaired driving and Nevada’s failure to deter the driver’s speeding recidivism due to systemic deficiencies, despite numerous speeding citations.”

Intelligent speed assistance technology, or ISA, uses a car’s GPS location compared with a database of posted speed limits and its onboard cameras to help ensure safe and legal speeds.

Passive ISA systems warn a driver when the vehicle exceeds the speed limit through visual, sound, or haptic alerts, and the driver is responsible for slowing the car. Active systems include mechanisms that make it more difficult, but not impossible, to increase the speed of a vehicle above the posted speed limit and those that electronically limit the speed of the vehicle to fully prevent drivers from exceeding the speed limit.

[Related: 68 mph? FMCSA backtracks after ‘inaccurate’ reveal of speed-limiter intentions]

“This crash is the latest in a long line of tragedies we’ve investigated where speeding and impairment led to catastrophe, but it doesn’t have to be this way,” said NTSB Chair Jennifer Homendy. “We know the key to saving lives is redundancy, which can protect all of us from human error that occurs on our roads. What we lack is the collective will to act on NTSB safety recommendations.” 

Specifically, NTSB recommended that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration:

Require ISA systems that, at a minimum, warn a driver a vehicle is speeding

  • Educate the public about the benefits of ISA
  • Update the guidelines for state highway safety programs to include identification and tracking of repeat speeding offenders
  • Develop countermeasures to reduce repeat speeding offenses
  • Conduct research and develop guidelines to assist states in implementing ISA interlock programs for repeat speeding offenders
  • Incentivize the adoption of ISA through, for example, the New Car Assessment Program. This recommendation is reiterated from a 2017 recommendation.

NTSB also recommended to 17 car manufacturers that they install ISA in all new passenger vehicles that, at a minimum, warns drivers when a vehicle is speeding.