Road Safety News

New film highlights potential of ISA

Wednesday 10th February 2016

The European Transport Safety Council* (ETSC) has produced a new film calling for over-ridable Intelligent Speed Assistance (ISA) to become a standard feature on all new vehicles in Europe.

The five-minute video has been launched as the European Commission continues work on the development of the next generation of vehicle safety standards, expected to be launched later this year.

ISA uses speed sign-recognition video camera or GPS-linked speed limit data to advise drivers of the current speed limit; the most advanced systems can automatically limit the speed of the vehicle as needed. Drivers are still able to override the system.

The first ISA system factory fitted vehicles started appearing on the market in 2015 and the ETSC says this was helped in part by Euro NCAP’s decision to award extra points for vehicles that include ISA.

The ETSC also points to a study for the Commission published last year by consultants TRL which found that ISA is one of several new vehicle technologies that are now suitable for mandatory fitting on new cars as they are ‘feasible in terms of the technology required’, already available on the market and offer a positive benefit-cost ratio.

Ellen Townsend, policy director of ETSC said: “Getting ISA technology in all new cars will help Europe maintain at the cutting edge as the industry moves increasingly towards automated driving. This is an automated feature that is proven, effective and available now.

“Speed is one of the biggest killers on our roads. With the potential to cut deaths by 20%, ISA really is a no-brainer.”

The film includes a demonstration of the system by Oliver Carsten of the University of Leeds in a production Ford Galaxy factory-fitted with ISA.

It also features expert contributions from Aled Williams of Euro NCAP, Dr Áine Carroll – a leading expert in post-crash rehabilitation, Koen Ricour of the European Traffic Police Network TISPOL and Ellen Townsend.

ETSC is a Brussels-based independent non-profit making organisation dedicated to reducing the numbers of deaths and injuries in transport in Europe.

Founded in 1993, ETSC provides an impartial source of expert advice on transport safety matters to the European Commission, the European Parliament, and Member States. It maintains its independence through funding from a variety of sources including membership subscriptions, the European Commission, and public and private sector support for various activities.


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The most important thing you can do when driving is to pay attention; with respects this "good idea" will switch off more driver attention to looking out of the window and noticing what is actually going on! Although it's not a trendy observation, an unbraked car driven by someone travelling @ just 25 miles an hour really will do far more damage to other road users and property that a car which had been being driven by someone paying attention but in excess of the posted speed limit! Why's that? - you may ask. Even in a situation whare a collision is going to happen (ie is now beyond the point of avoiding having one), the driver paying attention will be doing absolutely everything (s)he can to mitigate the damage to him(her)self and others - whereas the bloke daydreaming along @29mph with the heater on and humming to the radio station will take 2 secods to 'come to' - how far will a car travelling @29.995 mph travel in that time, remind me again!
Paul from Barking

Agree (4) | Disagree (3)

A bit of a pie in the sky comment perhaps, but maybe all cars should have the same engine control map that gives them the accelaration and speed characteristics of a Morris Minor 1000 (or a similar "slow" car). Engines could still be large if needed, ie to enable towing, going up steep hills and carrying five people etc, but the acceleration rate would be limited. Marketing campaigns for cars might then move away from speed and aggressive looks and therefore create a more considerate driving culture. Top Gear might even return to discussing boot space and leg-room!
Andy, Birmingham

Agree (5) | Disagree (5)

Are those suggesting there needs to be a trial of ISA aware that the EU commission reports there have been trials in Sweden, the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, Britain, Finland, Germany, France, Hungary and Spain? (not to mention work outside Europe)
David S, Scotland

Agree (3) | Disagree (2)

Anecdotal comments indicate that when technology takes over and partly automates tasks, then driver (or operator) attention often reduces. Some drivers of cars with simple cruise control operating find their human attention levels drop off quite severely. It would be interesting to measure and map the obvious plus points of ISA with the down side of reduced driver attention. I wonder which one outweighs the other?
Pat, Wales

Agree (23) | Disagree (1)

I had a primitive version of this on a Mercedes I owned. One could set a speed limit and the car would not exceed it, unless full throttle travel was used. The speed limit was set manually in 5mph increments. I found it extremely useful, and used it often. This is just a modern version in which the set speed can be automatically dialled in. I'd happily use it, and believe that it contributed to keeping a clean licence when driving a quiet, powerful car on long journeys, or through lengthy 50mph limits in road works. I would seek out such a feature if buying a new car.
David, Suffolk

Agree (9) | Disagree (7)

ETSCís German member DVR has said that deaths are 25% higher on stretches of Germany motorways that have no speed limit compared to those with limits.

ISA isn't about limiting power and torque, but limiting speed - to the legal maximum, and in this case voluntarily.

Unfortunately some people will accept flimsy evidence if they can use it to support their case at the same time as rejecting careful research and trials that disagree with their views.
David S, Scotland

Agree (6) | Disagree (6)

I think Rod and I are referring to certain types of car, with a certain look and image (think 'Top Gear'), manufactured and promoted to emphasise their high performance, aimed at and usually attracted to people who just want to 'go fast' and not to pull a caravan.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (5) | Disagree (2)

Hugh, top speed and acceleration are related to power and torque - something that is essential if you tow a caravan, for example. I no longer tow a caravan, but 163ps and 360nm of torque form my diesel car made light work of towing 1300kg with a car/caravan combination potentially in excess of 3500kg. Granted my car has a claimed top speed of 120mph, but the acceleration is very useful for safe overtaking of vehicles travelling below the speed limit. Even small engined cars are capable of easily exceeding 70mph. Don't forget that on some sections of German Autobahns, there is no speed limit.
Paul Biggs, Staffordshire

Agree (12) | Disagree (3)

Following on from Rod's telling observation - perhaps the ETSC might also like to enquire of the motor manufacturers why they are still making vehicles with acceleration rates and top speeds far in excess of what anyone would ever need, thus obviating the need for others to find ways of counteracting or tempering the effects thereof.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (5) | Disagree (11)

Many cars are already fitted with audible speed limiter warnings - my 2.2 diesel Peugeot Boxer motorhome complains loudly and visibly on the dash if the set speed is exceeded - particularly useful on motorways. One of my concerns about ISA, is that it will encourage 'accelerator to the floor' driving in the knowledge that a speed limit can't be exceeded - those of us who know anything about driving safely and speed know that it is vitally important to speed up and slow down in response to changes in the prevailing road conditions, rather than drive by numbers in 10mph increments. Ellen Townsend doesn't get it - she confuses 'speed' and 'speeding'. '20%' is a nice round figure that can't be found in STATS 19 data. ISA doesn't prevent 'speed'.
Paul Biggs, Staffordshire

Agree (14) | Disagree (5)

Will the black box electronics to manage the ISA have a memory and will the police be able to download data from it to determine what was happening in the period immediately before a collision? How much trust would be put in such data? A lot of new technology has eavesdropping potential. Providers need to be very up front about such things. Also provide a "default ISA off" button option.
Pat, Wales

Agree (21) | Disagree (2)


I think that the picture tells us an awful lot about the motor industry's fixation with speed and acceleration. Why have a speedo going up to 160mph when the driver is only licensed to do 70mph.

It's time for governments to realise that speed and acceleration are to the motor industry what salt and sugar are to the food industry. Both are totally complacent about the adverse public health effects of each and need government legislation.

There is a strong case for all vehicles to be limited to the maximum speed limit of the country they are registered in.
Rod King, 20's Plenty for Us

Agree (14) | Disagree (21)

The video confuses "speed" and "speeding", even though they are very different.

"speed" is a factor in all collisions, even bumping the gatepost at 2mph, but "speeding" (exceeding a speed limit) is a factor in only around 4.9% of injury collisions. In fatal collisions, speeding is a factor in around 13.6% therefore there is no way that ISA could reduce fatalities by anything like 20%.

I have simulated ISA using a variable speed limiter and found it potentially increases the risk of a crash. Normal safe driving requires altering speed for conditions but, when the car hits the limit, the driver is prevented from doing that. After a period of driving on the limiter, ISA tends to cause speed to be lower where it would be safe to go faster, but also to cause speed to be higher where a lower speed would be needed to maintain safety.

What we need is for ISA to be run within scientific trials on government vehicles. This would prove the effect of ISA and the trial would cost less than trying to estimate what effect ISA might have had. Let's start using an evidence-led approach so that we can direct our scarce resources to the most effective solutions.
Dave Finney, Slough

Agree (15) | Disagree (12)

Aren't those who currently don't bother complying with speed limits simply going to overide it anyway? Wouldn't a better alternative to ISA be an unbearable noise sounder in the vehicle which triggers when the limit is exceeded so that the driver has no option but to comply? Oh.. and if it has to be over-ridable, let's not put the button on the steering wheel please!
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (8) | Disagree (13)