What Would You Do if the Government Put a Speed Limiter on Your Car?


Imagine you’re driving down a nice, roomy stroad in anytown America. The lanes are wide, the buildings are set way back from the driving lanes, there are no cops anywhere in sight, and everything around you suggests that you can hit the gas and cruise—and if you make a miscalculation, well, you’ll have a nice, generous curb to swerve onto in an emergency. But drive a few more feet, and you’ll see a pesky speed limit sign yelling at you to slow it down. Oh, and we forgot to mention—in this fantasy scenario, your car is outfitted with a brand new, government-mandated speed-limiter that won’t let you go above the number on that sign, even if you really want to.

In America, this is an unlikely thought experiment. But across the Atlantic, it might soon be a reality. According to a new article from Evo: The Thrill of Driving, Europe will make Intelligent Speed Assistance and speed limit-sensing GPS devices mandatory on all new cars within three years, forcing drivers to slow down and obey the law (unless they want to endure an annoying warming alarm that’s set off every time you punch the throttle and override the system).

Here at Strong Towns, we talk a lot about why it’s so important for our towns to #slowthecars—not just to save lives, but to save our city budgets. Streets that are designed to be comfortably navigated on foot are proven to be more economically productive for their communities, and speed limiting devices certainly don’t subtract expensive pavement from our road networks that our places can’t afford to maintain. But just maybe, could this techy solution provide the kind of disincentive for driving that could help wean our places off of universal auto-dependency—or is it just another silver bullet that whizzes straight past the fundamental problem?

In this episode of Upzoned, Chuck and Kea tackle that difficult question, and they discuss a few other scenarios where solving a problem with human psychology might be the key to making our road network better. (Hint: we already have speed limiters on many of our vehicles, even in the US. It’s called the limits of the human body, and pedestrians and cyclists know all about them.)

Then in the Downzone, Chuck revisits his love of Sherlock, and Kea reveals her new favorite superhero movie: Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse. And they even tease a potential future podcast series that discusses the urban form in your favorite movies—starting with Spidey’s New York(s).

Top image via Creative Commons.