Monday, October 25, 2010

Speed Devices Not So Intelligent

After the recent trial of a device which sounds a warning when a driver exceeds the speed limit, the RTA is working towards the introduction of the so called “Intelligent Speed Adaptation” devices in all vehicles. According to the Daily Telegraph, it is another step towards a goal of having mandatory speed control devices which can cut power to the accelerator in every car in New South Wales. Although representatives of the RTA deny any such plan, it would appear that things are heading very much in that direction. The device which is currently being trialled contains an up to date map of every road in the state, complete with accurate records of every speed limit. When the driver exceeds the speed limit a warning is sounded, prompting the driver to slow down.

While most GPS navigation systems have a similar feature, the RTA version has the benefit of being regularly updated to reflect any changes in speed limits. As such, it may well represent a useful addition to the array of road safety aids available to the driver. However, the suggestion that such a device should be connected to the accelerator so as to wrest control of the car from the driver at any time that the computer decides the driver is exceeding the speed limit should be rejected. While not all drivers are as responsible as they should be, it is wrong to treat all drivers as irresponsible. And while most drivers will have no need to exceed the speed limit, there may well be the rare occasion when it is necessary to get out of the way of an impending disaster.

If the RTA was really serious about road safety, it would be building better roads, providing better driver training, and insisting on drivers learning to be responsible for their own actions, rather than trying to build the idiot-proof car. If they were serious about road safety they would set about reducing the complexity of the driving environment by removing the vast array of seemingly arbitrary and utterly inconsistent speed zones which appear to exist only for the purpose of trapping unwary motorists and milking their wallets for revenue. It has been demonstrated in other countries that over-regulating the roads actually creates problems rather than reducing them. It’s time to strike a balance which actually helps motorists to drive safely rather than causing them frustration.

Of course, if we did have computers cutting off the accelerator when we tried to drive too fast, surely that would mean that no-one would ever fall foul of the law. No one would ever break a speed limit because the system simply would not allow it to happen. And if for some reason the system didn’t work properly, and we managed to break a speed limit anyway, we could just blame the equipment. It would be somebody else’s fault, and we could wash our hands of all responsibility. Just imagine it, no more speeding fines ever! Maybe the whole thing isn’t such a bad idea after all.

But wait a minute, just what would the state government do for revenue then?

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