Intelligent Speed Adaptation.
I
I
I
Introduction.
I
The world’s largest trial involving "Intelligent Speed Adaptation", also known as ISA, was conducted in four Swedish cities.  Several thousand cars were equipped with intelligent technology to help drivers keep to the right speed.  It is conceivable that ISA could become standard in the smart, safe cars of the future.  [The E.U. is pushing to have such a system up and running in all member countries by 2010.]  Much of the following is a description of the problems and the ISA solution... in the words of the system developers.
I
I
Why ISA?
I
Why ISA has been developed.  Speeding is one of the main causes of people being killed or seriously injured in traffic.  One way to persuade drivers not to drive too fast is through installing traffic calming measures, like road humps.  Another possible way is to change laws and regulations, such as raising fines or organising more speed checks out on the roads.  An additional way is through technical support systems, and ISA is one of these.  The car "itself" finds out the speed limit that applies and informs the driver.  Smaller-scale trials involving this technology have already been conducted and have shown promising results.
I
Benefits to Society.  Stress is a part of everyday life for most people in modern society.  Sitting behind the wheel should be an excellent occasion to unwind.  But reality is often quite the opposite.  With ISA, drivers are afforded the opportunity to reduce their tempo and look at driving as an intermission between stressful situations.  The journey time between point A and B will vary less, since traffic will flow more smoothly.  This means being able to plan travel time better.
I
ISA brings information about the applicable speed limit into the car.  The car is kept updated about the relevant speed limit, thereby increasing comfort.
I
During a normal trip by car in a city, it is often only between a few seconds and a minute that can be saved by driving too fast.  The danger to which you expose yourself and others, the stress, the cost, including the chance of being fined, are not in proportion to the time gain.
I
"It was when I discovered that it took 12 seconds longer to get to work if I kept to the speed limit that I realised how ridiculous it was to drive too fast in town.  The ISA car was a positive experience.  I have most definitely changed my driving behaviour".
I
This was said by Ragnar Bergström, who took part in a previous ISA trial.  Ragnar Bergström drives three kilometres to work but drives between fifty and sixty thousand kilometres per year on business.
I
High Speeds.  We have little respect for high speeds... from the time we were created and during the course of our evolution, we human beings lacked the ability to cover distances quickly.  Hence, we have no instinctive fear of high speed.  But steep precipices have always existed and we are innately afraid of heights, which actually is the same thing.  If someone falls out of a window from the top floor of a three-storey building, they will be travelling at a speed of 50 km/h when they hit the ground.  Everyone understands that it is dangerous to lean out the window.  The same instinctive protection does not exist when it comes to speed.
I
Seventy pedestrians in a hundred die if they are hit by a car travelling at a speed of 50 km/h upon impact.  If the car is moving at a speed of 30 km/h at the time of impact, ninety of a hundred will survive.  Keeping the speed limit is therefore extra important in urban areas, where cars, buses and lorries share the same space with pedestrians and cyclists.
I
Inter-nationally.  International co-ordination and research on ISA is being conducted in several other European countries.  Apart from Sweden, Holland and England are the countries that have come the furthest in this field.  In Holland an ISA trial involving 20 cars and a bus was run between October 1999 and October 2000.  An ISA trial involving up to 20 vehicles was conducted in England in 2000.  Smaller projects are either underway or being planned in Finland and Denmark as well.
I
In order for ISA to be commercially feasible, the technology involved must be developed in co-operation with other countries.  Knowledge and experience is exchanged regularly through international networks and forums.
I
Research.  Previous research: in 1996–1997 two smaller-scale trials involving ISA were run in Eslöv and Umeå.  These provided the basis for the large-scale trial conducted between 1999 and 2002.
I
The trial in Eslöv lasted two months and the one in Umeå a year.  A total of 120 cars were involved and the results were highly promising.  The percentage of drivers who kept to a speed of 30 km/h increased from 20 to 80 percent.  Nearly all the test drivers thought that this technology led to safer traffic, and most felt that both driving comfort and interaction with other road-users was better.  Many wanted to keep the equipment in their cars after the end of the trial.
I
Solutions.  Current systems problematic - smart in the future - Twenty years ago we started installing bumps and other physical obstacles in roads and streets to keep down the speed.  These measures resulted in lower speeds, but created other problems as well.  Road maintenance, and snow clearance in particular, is made more difficult and becomes more expensive.  The traditional way of getting drivers to keep within the speed limit was through erecting road signs showing a fixed speed limit, irrespective of the road conditions at hand.  The speed should be much lower when there is ice and snow on the road than on a bare carriageway, for instance.
I
ISA makes it possible to supplement traditional methods with smart technical solutions.  Physical road obstacles can be replaced by electronic ”bumps” and the speed limit can be adapted to the conditions at hand.
I
Vision Zero.  "Vision Zero" is based on the premise that anyone can make a mistake.  In the autumn of 1997 Parliament passed the Government’s Bill stating that all work on road safety was to be based on "Vision Zero".  On the whole, this means that when people are killed or seriously injured in traffic, we should determine what had failed in the traffic system... people, vehicles and roads... instead of focusing on the human error involved.  Appropriate remedial action is then to be taken.
I
I
Questions and Answers.
I
What was the purpose of the large-scale trial?  The project aimed to learn more about driver attitudes and use of the system, the impact on road safety and the environment, the best way to integrate the system in cars, in addition to... how IT in traffic works on a large scale.
I
Why ISA at all?  We know that there is a very clear connection between speed and the seriousness of a traffic accident.  This is particularly obvious in urban areas, where cars share road space with pedestrians and cyclists.  Within this so-called vulnerable group of road users, children are those who are most at risk.  It is hoped that systems for speed adaptation will help drivers keep within the speed limit, thereby reducing the chance of serious accidents.  Steady speeds are also good for the environment.
I
Isn’t ISA just another step towards a vulnerable high-tech society?  Cars are a good example of that which is called the high tech society.  And we humans are vulnerable in the car environment.  It can only be a good thing if we could use technology to reduce the number of people killed and injured in traffic and save the environment at the same time.  The techniques we are using are not especially sophisticated or new.  It is the way they are being used that is new.
I
I
The Project.
I
Large-scale trials.  Different smart, supportive and voluntary systems intended to help keep drivers from driving too fast were tested in the world’s largest ISA trial ever.  Several thousand vehicles were involved.  The Swedish National Road Administration invested a total of SEK 75 million, in compliance with a governmental decision.  This trial was run in co-operation with the municipal authorities in Umeå: Borlänge: Lidköping: and Lund.
I
The trial started in 1999, when the technology was still being developed and the equipment was installed in the first test vehicles.  This continued throughout 2000.  By the beginning of 2001, all the equipment had been installed.  The recruitment of test drivers, both private and commercial, took place in 1999 and 2000.  The ISA vehicles were in operation from 2000 up until December 2001 and the evaluations were compiled in 2002.  The trial was concluded in the autumn of 2001
I
Evaluation.  The large-scale trial was a research project that aimed to increase our knowledge about ISA: user attitudes, the impact on road safety and the environment and what a future system could look like.  A number of studies will be conducted during the project period.  Up until now, baseline measurements have been conducted in each respective trial city.
I
Umeå: Borlänge: Lidköping: and Lund were responsible for the evaluation in their respective municipalities.  The evaluation was co-ordinated by the Swedish National Road Administration.
I
Impact.  ISA’s greatest service to society could be to improve road safety.  It was therefore important to analyse the way in which ISA could actually promote this.  The project also aimed at finding out the possible impact of ISA on the environment and traffic flow.  This evaluation was in principle based on comparative measurements, before, during and after the installation of the ISA system.
I
Product and System.  The technique that was tested is a second-generation prototype.  The product/system sub-group within the project were to work on finding out the best way to integrate the technology into the vehicle in the future and how a future system could interact with the driver in the best possible way.
I
The User.  Learning more about user attitudes towards ISA is the most important outcome of the project.  If ISA is to make a breakthrough, there must be a customer demand for the system.  Hence, driver attitudes to ISA were thoroughly analysed in the project.  The most interesting question areas included their overall views on ISA, what they thought after having tried the system, the advantages and disadvantages experienced, whether they changed their driving behaviour even when driving a vehicle without the ISA system, as well as how they thought the system could be improved to suit consumer needs better.
I
I
Trial Cities.
I
Four trial cities were responsible for the implementation.  The trial was carried out in Borlänge: Lidköping: Lund: and Umeå.  Each of these municipalities was responsible for the implementation within its own area.  The Swedish National Road Administration co-ordinated the project at the national level through project management, technical support and collating the results from the different cities.
I
The trial comprised different categories of road-user. All in all, private individuals comprised the largest group, but commercial drivers working in both the private and public sector, including public transport, constituted a significant number.
I
I
Borlänge
Borlänge - Right speed - The trial in Borlänge went under the name "Right Speed".  Borlänge Municipality has been working actively for many years to improve the traffic environment and road safety.  The ISA trial was another way to help improve road safety through the use of technical solutions.
I
During 1998 a smaller-scale ISA trial was run involving commercial drivers in Borlänge.  This trial was called the "20 cars project".
I
No. of test vehicles: 400
Target groups: Private and commercial drivers
Equipment: Informative and quality-assured systems.  GPS and digital map.
I
I
Lidköping
Lidköping... Spearheading the way to Lidköping Municipality and the Western Region of the Swedish National Road Administration ran a joint project between 1997 and 2001 entitled "Lidköping — Spearheading the Way to Vision Zero".  It involved several different measures being taken in the municipality to improve road safety.  Lidköping was also the first in the world to be chosen by the World Health Organisation as a "safe and secure community".
I
Studies show that people living in Lidköping do actually want to keep to the speed limit, but for different reasons don’t seem to be able to manage this.  The Lidköping municipal authorities wanted to use the ISA trial to find out if ISA could be an alternative to traditional traffic calming measures.
I
No. of test vehicles: 300
Target groups: Private drivers, drivers of company cars and municipal authority vehicles.
Equipment: Informative and active support systems.  GPS and digital map.
I
I
Lund
Lund... LundaISA... In Lund the trial went under the name of "LundaISA".  Lund Municipality viewed the ISA trial as a possible way to develop alternative solutions to re-building the roads in a city nucleus that is both cramped and vulnerable from a cultural/historical perspective.
I
Research within the ISA field has been conducted at the Lund Institute of Technology since the beginning of the 80’s.  A smaller-scale ISA trial was run in Eslöv in 1996.  This trial turned out very well.
I
No. of test vehicles: 300
Target groups: Private and commercial drivers
Equipment: Active support system.  GPS and digital map.
I
I
Umeå
Umeå... Smart speed... The trial in Umeå went under the name of "Smart Speed".  Umeå Municipality has been working on making the traffic environment safer for many years through undertaking physical measures in the road network and reducing the speed limit.  Through participating in the ISA trial, Umeå wanted to learn more about the attitude of drivers concerning road safety issues.
I
In 1996, Umeå conducted a smaller-scale ISA trial involving 100 vehicles.  The results from that trial were very positive, which has meant that Umeå Municipality wants to continue the work on developing ISA.
I
No. of test vehicles: 5000
Target groups: Private drivers and public transport
Equipment: Informative systems.  Roadside transmitters.
I
ISA, 2007.  The developers seem to be backing away from the most extreme example of ISA.  Basically, if you take control... then you must also accept some responsibility for what happens.  Drivers will be able to over-ride the system... but this fact will be recorded... and may be used against you in the event of an accident.
I
I
Road Supervisor's Comments...
I
Although there may be a few benefits we do not believe this type of system will prove to be particularly successful.  Because...
I
1. Basically, it comes down to one of two choices... the system can either 'Inform' drivers that they are exceeding the speed limit... in which case the worst offenders will simply ignore the 'Advice'.  Or the system will intervene in some way... perhaps by cutting the fuel supply... in which case you cannot blame the driver in the event of an accident: [you cannot have a system that takes control but does not accept any responsibility.]  Who would really want to be put in the position of overtaking a large truck... running out of time and space... and having your fuel supply cut at the vital moment?  This system is just as likely to cause accidents as it to prevent them!
I
2. They talk about altering speed limits, electronically... within an urban environment as conditions change.  But, the urban environment changes, second by second... on every street.  Technology cannot monitor all these changes... no one sitting watching a bank of cameras will be able to monitor all the changes.  Only the drivers can do this... and many do it successfully year after year with no problems.  The main problem is a small minority of high-risk drivers who either lack the ability to detect the ever changing risk-factors... and those than fail to respond to them in any positive way: i.e. those that constantly drive at the very limits of their capabilities.
I
3. They report that up to 80% of drivers responded positively to advice and stayed with a speed limit.  But most of the serious problems exist within the other 20% who do not respond in a positive way to anything... so, no change there.  Furthermore, those drivers who volunteer for such a trial are unlikely to be representative of the whole driving population... how many 'maniacs' took part and gave them positive feedback?
I
4. There are many, many reasons why road accidents happen... there are many things that create danger... many sources of stress... this type of system attempts to deal with just one of them... drivers exceeding speed limits.  Our assessment is that it is unlikely to be successful in even this limited area.  
I
5. This type of system would need to be installed in all vehicles... old and new... at enormous expense to the consumers... literally, billions of ?? any currency you care to think of!  If funds are being channelled into this type of system then there are less funds available to deal with other aspects of road safety which might prove to be more effective.
I
6. While installing a new system into new vehicles is not that difficult... fitting this kind of system into old vehicles may be prohibitively expensive.  So what do you do with old... veteran and vintage vehicles? do you have them all removed from the roads? or do you exempt them? in which case everyone will be trying to buy up older... inferior vehicles... driving around in them faster than all the brand new vehicles.
I
7. The E.U. is discussing the possibility of introducing this kind of system right across Europe by 2010... which means they will have to introduce a uniform set of protocols right across the Industry... so all vehicles will be able to use the same software... and it will all work together seamlessly... regardless of the country they happen to be in.  So, what happens to vehicles from those countries that border the E.U.? you cannot impose your standards on them... so do you ban all those vehicles from the E.U.? or allow them in? in which case everyone will be looking to own a foreign registered vehicle!
I
8. Perhaps Politicians do not think the effects on Manufacturers should be a consideration... but if you introduce a system like this right across Europe... [including plans for a maximum speed limit of about 80mph/130kph for every country] what would be the effect on companies like Porsche: Ferrari: Jaguar: Aston Martin: Lotus: BMW: Audi: TVR: Mercedes: etc. etc.  Who is going to spend a fortune on a high performance car capable of doing 150mph/240kph+ once it has been neutered!
I
9. As with any system... the real test is not in how effective it is at controlling the law-abiding majority... but how effective it is when dealing with those who are determined to get around the law.  So... how easy would it be to by-pass these new regulations?  Will it be possible to cover a sensor... disconnect the electrics... use modified software? or as we have already mentioned... use older vehicles... exempted vehicles... or those registered in foreign countries?
I
10. Their whole philosophy is based on a misguided notion: see "Vision Zero" which very basically says that "any driver can make a mistake...so, in the event of a serious accident the investigating authorities should determine what had failed within the 'traffic system'... people, vehicles and roads... rather than look at the human error aspect... and take remedial action".
I
The first point we can certainly agree with... "any driver can make a mistake"... a certain amount of accidents will inevitably happen... and we should not expect to see drivers being prosecuted every time they do.  But the bottom line is... more than 90% of accidents are due to human error... and of those, most result from some kind of high-risk practice by a serious and persistent offender... rather than a one-off mistake.  This approach simply gives free licence to these individuals because they know there is very little chance of them ever being held to account for their actions.
I
The basic philosophy of Road Supervisors comes from the opposite end of this spectrum.  That is... that every effort should be made to identify high-risk drivers... and every effort made to change their behaviour before they cause an accident... in the sure knowledge that if they continue to put other people at risk they definitely will be held to account.
I
Article.   Limiting Speed... Limiting Safety — How the totalitarian threat of external vehicle control threatens a road safety disaster.
I
I
I

Back to the Top. Articles Home. Site Plan.
Speedtraps UK. Snooper. RoadPilot. Road Angel GPS.