The top speed on highways in America is maybe 85 miles an hour, depending where you live.
So why are so many cars able to do 155, and have a speedometer that shows even more?
It's a very good question.
Volvo is the first car company to cut the other way starting in 2020 they will electronically limit their cars to go no faster than a 112 miles an hour it's part of their vision 20 20 initiative where they hope to have no one seriously injured or killed in the Volvo made after that year Why 112.
They didn't really pick that.
They picked 180 kilometers per hour and 112 is the conversion.
But why are high speeds suddenly under scrutiny.
Not the cars that are a problem.
In fact most combustion engine cars are happy to run at just about any speed.
As long as it's a consistent speed.
So wide open highways aren't really a technical issue.
Instead, it comes down to three other areas.
First of all, there are drivers, you and the other ones.
We do share the road.
And while you may think you're perfectly able to drive at 100 plus, I have news for you, most of you aren't.
And the other guy definitely isn't expecting a car to come up or go by at that speed, let alone at that differential of speed between you and them.
That's safety issue number one.
Number two is the area of road design.
American roads are generally laid out for around 65 miles an hour historically so the radius of curves, the banking of different curves and also the way the painting and signage is done are not spaced in a way that they will temporary appear the right way at much higher speeds than they were designed for.
That's an issue as well.
And finally, you've got the area of fuel and emissions.
When you go faster, especially at very high speeds, the wind resistance builds up more each mile per hour than they did the mile per hour before.
It's not a straight linear relationship.
That starts to really pile on the fuel inefficiency and emissions.
Now technology has been coming to the rescue or interfering with high speed depending on your view for some time now.
In recent years, we've seen a number of cars offer speed limit recognition.
Using cameras or sometimes GPS databases or even radio beacons, the car can figure out what the speed limit is in its immediate area, and reflect that on the dashboard.
Basically remind the driver this is the speed here.
But that's it.
It doesn't interfere beyond that.
And some cars like Citron allow you to actually take that indication and with a button press, make it your speed.
Less common but coming soon, widely in Europe is going to be active ISA.
This is active intelligent speed assist.
It actually sets your top speed to match the speed limit where you're driving.
Again, using a number of technologies to figure that out.
By 2022, all new cars sold in the European Union will be required to have this.
So actually, if I push on the accelerator pedal, it won't go any faster than 40 miles an hour.
But by the way it is something that I expect will be switchable.
You'll be able to turn this thing on or off or override it.
But it does immediately, on first blush Bring your car to compliance speed.
Finally the era of autonomous cars, partially or completely autonomous really starts to get us into speed limit management.
Autonomous cars are known in fact sometimes negatively for being extremely literal about speed limits.
Traffic loss, obeying double lines all that sort of thing.
They will not violate speed limit unless we come to some fussy logic agreement in the industry that they should be allowed to do that.
That won't surprise me but I think it'll be within very set reasonable limit.
Not a car that can say hey, the traffic's clear.
I'll go ahead and do 130 here because I'm a really good driver.
No one's gonna code that into any product for public sale.
And finally there's the poor old Autobahn.
Every time someone makes an argument for deep triple digit driving in America, they point to the Autobahn and say, well the Germans do it.
The German driving seen is completely different.
Getting a German driver's license is like getting a master's degree.
The degree of responsibility and attentiveness paid to driving in Germany is not like In America the autobahn roads are built for high-speed in their initial design and the drivers who are on them have long been conditioned to know there might be a car blowing by you at nearly 200 miles an hour and there may be dramatic speed differential.
So basically the autobahn lesson relates to exactly zero.
In the American discussion of speed limits.
And, by the way, there are already speed limits on about a third of the Autobahns and proposals to limit the rest, to help manage carbon emissions.
Now, Volvo limiting their top speed on their cars to 112 is still pretty lofty.
So, I'm guessing the marginal decrease in road fatalities is going to be pretty close to nothing.
But, it does open up a very interesting conversation.
I expect to hear more of around the auto industry.
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