Volvo’s New Speed Limit – All Cars Already Have It

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Volvo’s New Speed Limit – All Cars Already Have It; Owners Can Reset Top Speed For Inexperienced Teen Drivers, Others

WASHINGTON, D.C.  (March 6, 2019) –  Volvo has just announced what some are describing as a radical new plan to limit the top speed of its automobiles, but virtually every car now on the road already has this capability, and owners may want to consider lowering the top speed on their vehicles for cars driven by inexperienced teens or the elderly, cars which have experienced stuck-accelerator problems, and in other situations, suggests public interest law professor John Banzhaf.

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Since the top speed limit of any state in the U.S. is 85 mph, it makes no sense for manufacturers to set - as they now do - the top-speed limiters (or controllers) already incorporated in their car's on-board computer system to speeds of 140 mph or more, says Banzhaf, who has an engineering degree from M.I.T, as well as 2 patents, published technical papers, and has written extensively on preventing vehicle accidents.

However, since such controls are built into the computers which already control many engine functions on virtually all modern cars, it should be a simple matter - like changing the font size on a computer program - to change that top speed to something much more reasonable, especially in several situations, he suggests.

Virtually every car on the road already has, built into its on-board computer system, a high-speed cutoff circuit which prevents the vehicle from being driven at a speed greater than that programmed into its memory.  Unfortunately, the top speeds programmed into these systems usually exceed 120 mph, and are based not upon safety concerns and reasonable driving conditions, but rather upon the speed at which the tires will begin to disintegrate from centrifugal force.

But the setting can easily be reset by dealers, garages, and others to something more realistic, almost as simply as computer users change the "defaults" in various fields (e.g. font size) on their programs.

If drivers had the top speed of their cars set (i.e., the default speed changed) to something safer and more realistic, it would be impossible for an operator to drive too fast, thereby reducing not only the chances of an accident, but also its severity if it occurs. It's obviously far easier to avoid an accident at 60 mph than at 120 mph.

Also, if an accident does occur, the severity will be much less since the energy of the vehicle - and hence the severity of an accident - is roughly proportional not to the speed at which the car was operating, but rather to the square of the speed. Thus a car moving at 120 mph will have 4 times the injury and damage potential of a vehicle moving at 60 mph at the time of an accident.

For these reasons, car owners may wish to request their dealers, or others more experienced in reprogramming car speed controllers, to reset the top speed in a variety of situations.

These include cars being driver by young inexperienced teen drivers, especially if they have been instructed not to drive above the speed limit.

It might also be useful for drivers who, as senior citizens, are far more prone to sudden heart attacks, strokes, and other quick-onset impairments while driving.

A third situation in which setting a lower speed limit might be useful would be where that model has reportedly experienced a number of so-called stuck-throttle accidents, since the speed limiter in the computer would prevent the car from exceeding the set speed, regardless of the position of the accelerator.


Professor of Public Interest Law

George Washington University Law School,

FAMRI Dr. William Cahan Distinguished Professor,

Fellow, World Technology Network,

Founder, Action on Smoking and Health (ASH),

2000 H Street, NW, Wash, DC 20052, USA

(202) 994-7229 // (703) 527-8418  @profbanzhaf

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