Ford just introduced the new S-MAX in Europe. Its newest feature is that it will detect speed limits and automatically follow them, no matter how fast the driver wants to go:
Ford’s Intelligent Speed Limiter tech will first appear on the new Ford S-Max that’s launching in Europe that could just change the way that we drive.
A camera mounted on the windshield scans the road signs on the sides of the highway and, when the vehicle enters a 20mph zone, the system reduces the top speed to match. Rather than controlling the speed with automatic braking, the car limits its own velocity by adjusting the amount of fuel being pushed to the engine.
If a burst of speed is required, a driver can manually override the system for a short period to pass, or avoid a collision. How often a driver is able to do that, or for how long, is not entirely clear.
Ford will likely have a hard time marketing such technology in the States, for a number of reasons. The first is that our speed limits are arbitrary. The second is that police forces will likely not appreciate the drop in revenue. The third is that Americans generally don’t like speed limits in the first place, unless someone else is driving faster than they are, of course.
Even if this technology works 100% of the time, and that is not guaranteed, I have no idea who would buy one of these. Ford may be aiming to sell them to businesses for corporate fleets. That makes some sense. But I can tell you right now that driving at or under the speed limit is actually dangerous on many stretches of road here in Georgia. I can think of one highway in particular (285 around the Atlanta perimeter) where driving the speed limit (55 for most stretches) is a danger to everyone on the road. Most people are driving at least 65.
Ford may have really good intentions with the S-MAX, but, as we know, the road to hell is paved with good intentions (and populated with speeders).