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TfL To Begin Testing of Intelligent Speed Adaptation Technology

ISA speed map for Greater London. Click to enlarge.

Transport for London (TfL) will begin a six-month trial of Intelligent Speed Adaptation (ISA) technology which aims to reduce road casualties and help drivers avoid speeding penalties. (Earlier post.) As part of the trial, which will start this summer, a London bus will be fitted with ISA.

The intelligent technology, which works in conjunction with a GPS, enables drivers to select an option where acceleration is stopped automatically at the speed limit specific to any road in London within the M25 area. The unit can be disabled at the touch of a button, at which point it reverts to an advisory status where the current, legal speed limit is simply displayed as a driver aid. There is also a complete over-ride switch with disables the system entirely.

The TfL Road Safety Unit is also keen to trial the technology in a licensed taxi, alongside 20 TfL vehicles driven by road engineers, traffic managers and highway inspectors.

The practical uses of the technology will be tested in the six month trial after which a report will be submitted to the Mayor of London, and the technology will be made available to external organizations.

Southwark Council has already expressed an interest in fitting ISA to more than 300 of its vehicles.

The trial will monitor driver behavior, journey times and the effect that driving within the speed limit has on vehicle emissions. ISA uses the digital speed limit map of London which TfL launched on 29 January 2009. This is the first time all of London’s speed limits have been mapped accurately with regular updates.

Other GPS device manufacturers are being encouraged to take advantage of this resource which could help to improve road safety in the Capital by introducing a speed limit display and warning in their satellite products.

It is estimated that if two thirds of London drivers use the ISA system, the number of road casualties in the Capital could be reduced by 10%

This innovative technology could help any driver in London avoid the unnecessary penalties of creeping over the speed limit, and at the same time will save lives. We know the technology works, and now we want to know how drivers in all types of vehicles respond to it. ISA is intended as a road safety device, but if Londoners embrace this technology we may well see additional benefits including reduced congestion as a result of collisions and reduced vehicle emissions as drivers adopt a smoother driving style.

—Chris Lines, Head of TfL’s London Road Safety Unit

The UK government’s Commission for Integrated Transport (CfIT) and the Motorists’ Forum (MF) recently issued a joint report evaluating the impact of implementing an Intelligent Speed Adaptation (ISA) system across the entire road network on reducing deaths and injuries on the UK roads and on reducing fuel consumption and emissions of CO2 and criteria pollutants. They partners commissioned the Institute for Transport Studies, University of Leeds to produce the report.

Research on ISA in the UK has been going on for more than 10 years, including a major ISA-UK project funded by the UK’s Department for Transport (DfT) between 2001 and 2006. The new report builds on and extends this previous work, including the final report on the ISA-UK project published by DfT in September 2008.

Of the two proposed benefits of ISA—GHG emissions reduction and increased road safety—the Leeds researchers concluded that the calculated social benefits of the accident savings far outweigh the values of fuel or CO2 saved.



Of course, when this technology is mandated for all cars in a few years, the manual override switch will have mysteriously disappeared.

I hope the manual override switch disappears. That will avoid deaths and injuries of people who are now run down by drivers who illegally drive above the speed limit.

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