To cut interactions between the police and the public, should cars restrict speed to the published speed limit?

Every time there is an interaction between an American subject and an American police officer or officers there is a chance that the police will shoot and kill or cripple the subject. In addition to the loss of life, other subjects may lose tens of millions of dollars per incident when the city has to pay civil damages to the survivors of the person who was killed.

Our beloved 2021 Honda Odyssey (“like a Tesla, but spacious, quiet, and smooth over bumps; lacks Dog Mode”), at least when a phone is plugged in (haven’t checked, but maybe it is getting it from Google Maps?), displays the current speed limit. The engine is controlled electronically. If I mash down the accelerator, it could certainly say “I’m afraid I can’t do that Dave” and accelerate only to, e.g., 55 mph. If nobody can speed, nobody can be pulled over for speeding. This wouldn’t eliminate potentially deadly interactions between the police and the general public, but it certainly would reduce them.

Maybe have a single exception: passing another car that is going more than 10 mph slower than the speed limit on a two-lane road. The Odyssey already has all of the hardware and 99 percent of the software necessary to detect this situation (the adaptive cruise control has a radar to see how fast cars in front are going and the lane-departure and lane-keeping systems (the latter adds some steering inputs) use a camera to see if you’re staying in your lane.

Readers: Stupid or Clever?

Related:

  • Save lives by limiting cars to 35 mph? (if we look at what we’ve done out of coronapanic, it is irrational not to eliminate most driving-related deaths, which kill far younger people (more life-years lost) and which are far easier to prevent)

17 thoughts on “To cut interactions between the police and the public, should cars restrict speed to the published speed limit?

  1. Regardless of whether it’s stupid or clever, it’s going to happen. I’m surprised it’s not already the law in the EU and also in Britain (which despite the Brexit illusion is just as centrally controlled), where roundabouts to control traffic speed are widespread and speed limits are strictly enforced, particularly in city centers (if automobiles are allowed at all.)

    I suspect it hasn’t been done here yet because so many various state and local governments rely on revenue from speed enforcement. For example, much of I-84 in northern CT and big parts of the Mass. Pike are jokes with their 65MPH limit. The bulk of traffic regularly exceeds 80 MPH, even in the rain! The tires, suspensions and brake systems of modern cars are much better than they were when the 65MPH speed limit was introduced, and the cars are more efficient, also. 65 feels like you could get out and walk, and everyone passes you, even Subarus with their COEXIST and Eliz. Warren stickers with mask-wearing drivers. But the police are waiting, and they pull people over, which gooses their revenue and also helps the insurance industry.

    Ticketcams have met harsh resistance in many of the places they’ve been tried; but if your car simply refused to travel faster than the limit, how could the police set up speed traps?

    I think you’re about a decade ahead of the law. I expect the forces to converge in this direction fairly soon, though. It will begin in the “progressive” states like CA, MA, NY, OR, etc., and gradually spread from there. All the cars sold in California, for example, will have to be able to self-limit their speed and also provide mileage telemetry so that the vehicle’s miles driven can be taxed. There will be an elaborate fee schedule to allow certain roads and cars to permit higher speeds at various times and traffic/weather conditions.

    In general over the next 20 years I expect the amount of autonomy and decision-making of the driver to gradually diminish to near zero. And then we will be closer to Akira Yoshino’s vision of a “wireless, fossil-fuel free society” wherein nobody owns a car and instead relies on a public network of self-driving vehicles, owned and maintained by the government.

    • P.S. The 2nd day of spring this year was a beautiful, almost perfect wind-free bright and sunny day with outside temps. in the low 60s, “ceiling and visibility unlimited” as pilots sometimes say. My 2010 Ford Escape Hybrid is electronically limited to 118 MPH to prevent an overspeed condition on the HV traction motor in the transaxle. I decided to cruise at 100MPH on a very clear stretch of I-84 for about 10 minutes, just to see how the car behaved at that speed. The answer was: “Very well.” It didn’t feel unsafe at 100MPH. I wasn’t fatigued or challenged by that speed and neither was the car. I have more than a million miles of driving experience, it’s well maintained, etc., but it’s nice to know the car will do it if needed, in an emergency. It was fun.

      I turned around, set the cruise control at 80MPH and reset the fuel economy reading. On the 17 mile return leg, the car surprised me by clocking 34.1 MPG. This is a relatively large, 5-door, 3750 pound SUV with a roof rack, not very aerodynamic. At that speed, the car is operating in “parallel hybrid” mode – some power is coming from the electric motor, some from the internal combustion engine, balanced by the electronics and eCVT transmission. It’s pretty amazing. This is above the EPA estimated mileage when *new* and I know the speedometer is accurate. 80MPH was the prevailing traffic speed on this section of I-84, and I was even being passed by a few people.

      There is no reason to limit these sections of I-84 to 65 MPH, at least during good weather conditions. People ignore it and drive at a safe, prevailing speed. On the days they decide to enforce it though, the contrast is stark and people are pulled over every few miles or so.

  2. I decided that this post is not ironic, even though the author seems not to be not a fan of government regulations as far as coronaplague is concerned and is leaving heavily regulated place for not (yet) heavily regulated place.
    ” Stupid or Clever?”
    If goal is to kill economy and make society managed by uncollected bureaucrats – clever, if to make lives better – stupid. It will kill new cars market and extend commute and thus logistic, employment and shipping costs at a rate worse then most governmental regulations. It is well known “secret” that truckers exceed speed limit to make money and trucking companies maintain legal departments to cancel tickets.
    If goal is to reduce highway casualties – mostly stupid short of limiting speeds to 25 mph. Getting out of dangerous situation often requires speeding up. Passing at speed higher then limit may be allowed, at least that what local judge ruled when a friend of mine disputed his traffic ticket.

  3. Why aren’t cars?:

    1. Electronically speed limited to the current speed limit.

    2. Uploading their location, speed, and direction to the Internet in real-time (just like a plane, see ADS-B).

    Not only would there be a lot less accidents, hit and run accidents would be greatly reduced.

  4. Any carmaker that does this on their own will immediately go out of business. (Although tesla’s autopilots do have a setting where you can set an offset from the speed limit, which you could set to zero; it would be interesting to see what real people set those at.)
    So that leaves regulators to do it. I believe it would be terribly unpopular. (Although around here, the “Vision Zero” people have implemented a bunch of annoying crap, and I never would have believed how “safety nanny” Americans could be before the pandemic)

  5. When I was a teen, my friends and I would race go-carts at a local go-cart track. Ten laps for a dollar. Being mechanically inclined, I knew how to reach back and turn up the governor on my cart. We’d always run an extra lap after pretending not to see the flag man directing us to pull in after the tenth lap.

  6. There’s also the problem of keeping the databases updated. My 2019 Honda Ridgeline also displays the current speed limit on the navigation/map screen, and often it’s wrong. It will show a 65-mph speed limit on a stretch of road that’s signed for 60-mph, and on another section it will show a 55-mph limit when the road signs show 60-mph.

    This applies both to keeping the master databases update with correct information, but also updating the car’s local database. How many people bother to update their car’s information, even when the update is free?

    • Tesla does this by having the cars cameras read the speed limit signs, which could probably be made to have hilarious effects by the right prankster

  7. Positives and Negatives department. I discovered my FEH would do 100 MPH safely, at least on a nice day. What about a really terrible day?

    This is a true story: A couple of years ago, one of my family members had a heart attack. He went out to walk the dog on a very hot, muggy day, and once back inside he started having pain, which got worse, and worse. It was clear he was having a heart attack.

    The average response time for an ambulance where I live is > 30 minutes and as much as an hour including the trip to the closest hospital. I said: “Come on. I’m helping you. We’re going to the hospital. Now.” I wasn’t going to sit there and wait for the ambulance while I watched him die on the living room floor.

    We got in the car and I drove. Fast. Well over all of the posted speed limits. And through a red light and a couple of stop signs where I could see the intersection in both directions. We made it to the hospital, a 15 mile trip – in 13 minutes flat, and this is not highway driving, it was through a couple of residential areas connected by a medium-speed 4-lane. I pulled up to the ER and helped walk him into the ER under his own power, right onto a stretcher and into an ER station. He was in agony, but they stabilized him within 10 minutes.

    Long story short, after 48 hours in the hospital and extensive evaluation and treatment, he came home and has almost completely recovered from the heart attack. While I was in the ER with him that night, one of the doctors said to me: “It’s a good thing you got him here right away. I think he’s going to recover. His heart wasn’t badly damaged. 20 more minutes and it would have been a different story.” I was almost in tears. I said: “I didn’t want to do it. But I guess I can still drive pretty well under pressure.”

    The day an automobile artificially limits my speed and prevents me from saving one of my family members from dying is going to be a day that nobody wants to see.

  8. Overkill. Just take the guns away from police doing traffic stops. If the bad guy pulls a gun, let the policeman step back and allow them to drive off. The license plate will be recorded already, and you can’t outrun Motorola.

    • @GC,

      > The license plate will be recorded already, and you can’t outrun Motorola.

      And when you send cops to arrest the offender for not paying his tickets, or driving with a suspended license (for accumulating too many tickets), or not showing up for his court day, et. al. and the offender resists arrest and tries to run away and gets shot. Now what? A nationwide news, politicians, leaders, et. al. marching, rioting and lecturing us on how cops killed — sorry, I meant to say murdered in cold blood — an innocent person over a stupid unpaid speeding tickets or driving with a suspended license or not showing up to court, et. al.

      It’s a great times we live in.

  9. No, we need more police interactions. Big cities are only livable because police aggressively confront suspicious characters, and look for illegal activities. We need cars with tail lights that fail more often, so cops have excuses to stop drivers.

    • Exactly! Why let someone get away with passing a fake $20 bill when you can kill them in broad daylight, pay the family $27M and fire four officers, at least one of which will spend many years in jail. Sounds amazing!

      That’s almost as logical as spending $7 trillion in wars, because some unrelated folks took out a few buildings valued at an adjusted for inflation $2.3 billion. So much winning!

      You must be one of those big government types I keep hearing about.

    • That’s almost as logical as spending $7 trillion in wars, because some unrelated folks took out a few buildings valued at an adjusted for inflation $2.3 billion.”

      Well, that and 3000 Americans killed.

    • @Senorpablo, you are right! Cops should not have arrested Floyd, even better responded to the 911 call from the shop. And yet even much better, cops should not have arrested Floyd the other 9 times where he was convicted and locked up multiple times. And why stop there? Get rid of 911 calls and let criminals do their thing. No? Can you enlighten me please?

      Now about the fake $20 bill. In your opinion, what should the clerk have done when he discovered this was a fake $20 bill? Just take it and be quite about it? What about the next customer who walks in with a fake $20 bill, and the next, and the next, and the next? What should the store owner do when s/he tries to deposit those fake $20’s or hand them over to another customer or tries to buy something for himself, at another shop, using those fake $20’s? Wouldn’t the clerk be fired for taking fake $20’s over and over and over? Wouldn’t the shop owner be called on by another customer for the clerk returning fake $20’s as change? Wouldn’t the bank reject the shop owner’s fake $20’s for deposit? Can you enlighten me on this too please?

      Bottom line, when Floyd was told by the clerk that his $20 bill was fake, Floyd should have offered another real $20 or returned what he bough (if he didn’t have another $20) and walked away. Has he done that, which is the sensible thing to do, he would have been alive and wouldn’t have cost tax payers $27M (not counting the trial cost and all).

    • @Senorpablo, this requires a separate response:

      “That’s almost as logical as spending $7 trillion in wars, because some unrelated folks took out a few buildings valued at an adjusted for inflation $2.3 billion.”

      If we accept this line of thinking, then we must also accept that the world should not have fought back against Hitler and his treatment of the Jewish. Or fought back against the Ottoman Empire for their genocide of Armenians and Christens. Or American should not have had a Civil War to end slavery and secession. Or, ___ (fill in the blank).

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