Depending on the point of view, Ford's new speed-limiting technology either helps lead foots curb their appetite for speed or represents a further intrusion on driver control and automotive privacy.
The feature, dubbed Intelligent Speed Limiter, made its debut last month on the Ford S-Max in Europe. It automatically prevents drivers from exceeding speed limits.
Engineers combined the functionality of two systems to create the feature, which enables drivers to manually set and adjust a maximum vehicle speed. A camera mounted at the front of the car recognizes and reads speed-limit signs along the rote, and adjusts the car's throttle accordingly.
The system does not apply the brakes. Instead it controls engine torque with electronic adjustments of the amount of fuel delivered. Drivers can temporarily override the system by "firmly" pressing on the accelerator, Ford says. It gives drivers some leeway, allowing them to choose a speed that's as much as 5 miles per hour above the detected limit.
Like its competitors, many Ford vehicles have possessed the ability to either read speed-limit signs via cameras or infer speed limits via GPS location data for a while and display it for drivers. Allowing those systems to take a more active role in regulating speed is, in some ways, a next logical step.
Those fundamental technologies proved "popular with drivers who want to ensure they avoid incurring speeding fines by unintentionally exceeding the speed limit," says Stefan Kappes, active safety supervisor for Ford of Europe. "Intelligent Speed Limiter makes that even easier."