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Friday, October 23, 1998 Published at 01:20 GMT 02:20 UK


Go slow - like it or not

Satellite technology automatically slows down the car

Speeding could become a thing of the past with the invention of a new car that stops motorists from breaking the limit.

BBC Transport Correspondent Alan Whitehouse: "The race in on to keep road users within the speed limit"
Researchers at Leeds University have developed a 'speed control car' that they believe will help prevent the 1,200 deaths and 100,000 serious injuries due to speeding on UK roads every year.

But enthusiasts and motoring organisations have been quick to criticise the project for taking responsibility for the car out of the driver's hands.

The prototype car is a black Ford Escort that can plot its own position and speed on the road with pinpoint accuracy using satellite technology.

A digital road map tells the car when it is exceeding the speed limit, allowing it to cut back fuel automatically and gently apply the brakes to bring it in line with the law.

Volunteer test driver Louise Dye said it was almost like driving a normal car.

"You notice it has some special abilities, but only at certain times," she said.

"For example, when you move from a 60-mile limit to a 40-mile limit the car will slow down, which it does in a reasonably gentle fashion."

[ image: Injuries could be prevented, designers say]
Injuries could be prevented, designers say
Dr Oliver Carsten of Leeds University's Transport Studies Institute suggested the system could have a major impact on road safety, reducing accident injuries by as much as 35%.

"This system does away with the need for speed enforcement at all.

"Unless you are somehow able to disable the system, you can't go faster than the speed limit," he said.

Not everyone agrees automatic speed limiting is a good idea. There are concerns about safety and the Automobile Association's Denise Raven says taking too much control away from motorists might cause problems.

"From the research we've done, drivers feel it replaces them in the car too much," she said.

"Drivers like help with their driving, like assisted braking systems and cruise controls, but they still like to have a little bit more control of their driving."

Last year saw another rise in road deaths, prompting the government to order a new national speed limit policy review.

Roads Minister Lord Whitty, who launches the review on Friday, said that the speed control car would take at least 10 years to implement.

"A much more important point is how drivers behave now," he said.

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