If you’re on the hunt for a new car for the first time in a while, you’ll have come across a few key changes to the market. From the 2030 petrol ban shaking up the sales of petrol and diesel vehicles, through to the inclusion of speed limiters in cars, there are a number of new factors that you’ll need to consider when looking for a new set of wheels.

This article will examine speed limiters, including what are they, why you need them and how they might impact your driving experience.

What is a speed limiter for your car?

A speed limiter for a car is exactly what it sounds like – it’s a safety device designed to prevent drivers from exceeding the speed limits of roads. From 6 July 2022, all newly launched vehicles in the UK legally have to be fitted with one. However, many car manufacturers – including Volvo, Ford, Mercedes-Benz, and Renault – adopted speed limiters in their new vehicles before this date.

Whilst all new cars in the UK now have to have a speed limiter installed, the speed limiter can be deactivated, but this won’t permanently disable it. Next time you switch the engine on, the speed limiter will also activate.

It’s critical to note that whilst a speed limiter is designed to prompt speeding drivers to stay within the limit, the driver is ultimately still responsible for doing so. As such, if any motorist is caught speeding, they are still responsible for any potential fine.

How do speed limiters work?

There are a number of different ways in which Intelligent Speed Assistance (ISA) systems can notify a driver if they’re in excess of the speed limit. ISA systems will use either GPS data or traffic-sign recognition in order to gauge the speed limit in any area. Although they have a high degree of accuracy, critics have pointed out that such systems may be vulnerable to inaccurate GPS mapping or temporary speed limits.

Speed limiters currently can work in any of the following ways. If the system detects that a vehicle is over the speed limit, it will alert the driver and automatically limit the engine’s power in order to reduce the vehicle’s speed in the instance of driver non-response. Alternatively, the ISA system can also provide a visual symbol and pedal vibrations, flashing visual signs and audio announcements, and can push back against any foot pressed down on the accelerator pedal.

Research is currently establishing which of these cues is the most effective at inciting response. In December 2025, the findings will be analysed and future ISA systems will implement the most effective one.

It’s important to distinguish a speed limiter from cruise control, which is designed to move the car at one set speed, without the driver’s foot on the pedal. With a speed limiter, the driver remains is in full control of the car, unlike with cruise control. Speed limiters can also be overridden if drivers need to pull away by pushing down sharply on the accelerator pedal.

Speed limiters can typically be found either on the steering wheel or indicator – but take care not to confuse them with the sign for cruise control, as the symbols can be similar.

Why have speed limiters been introduced?

Speed limiters have been introduced in the UK in recognition of the 2019/2044 regulation of The European Commission. Despite having left the EU, The Vehicle Certification Agency in the UK still follows EU regulations, which is why this policy has been implemented in UK automobile markets.

There are a number of reasons why speed limiters are deemed necessary. Primarily, they are designed to improve road safety, making driving safer for motorists, pedestrians and cyclists. Manufacturers like Ford have suggested that speed limiters might also reduce the likelihood of speeding tickets (but remember that the driver is ultimately responsible for any fines accrued).

Otherwise, potential benefits to speed limiters include lower car insurance premiums as a result of lower risk of accident, as well as reduced CO2 emissions and greater fuel economy. Although, speed limiters do not yet have to be retroactively installed in older cars – they are only legally required in brand-new models at the moment.

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