11 May 2023

We know speed kills: how about controlling the car instead of the driver?

| Andrew Braddock MLA
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Car crash

Could intelligent speed adaptation prevent more car accidents? Research suggests it can help reduce speeding. Photo: File.

This month, the findings of the ACT Legislative Assembly’s inquiry into dangerous driving were released.

While there was some important media coverage given to many of the inquiry’s recommendations, especially those around the creation of new dangerous driving offences and enhanced police powers, the potential role of intelligent speed adaptation (ISA) technology didn’t get the attention it deserved.

If you think you don’t know what ISA technology is, be patient because I’ll get to that.

Human behaviour is a funny beast. Not one of us behaves as well as we know we should. If there’s ice cream in the freezer, some of us eat too much of it. When the school crossing speed limit says 40, some of us let ourselves nudge up to 44.

Most of us want to behave better, at heart. We don’t need all that ice cream. We want kids to be safe getting to and from school.

Helping humans to behave better creates thriving enterprises across multiple fields, from the diet and wellness industry, to serious academic research, to cutting-edge technology.

Because, again, most of us like – and need – a helping hand in improving behaviour we know isn’t healthy or safe. Most of us also want to see stronger curbs on the people who can’t or won’t control their own egregiously dangerous behaviour.

This is where we get to intelligent speed adaptation.

You might not think you know what it is, but you’re probably already using it in some form. For example, the cruise control and sensing technology on modern cars allows you, as a driver, to make sure you don’t exceed highway or school zone speed limits.

Your car may even have the capacity to brake for you when it senses a slower vehicle or other obstacle ahead.

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Many cars are equipped with warning devices that tell you if you’re speeding, not wearing your seatbelt, or about to hit another vehicle as you change lanes.

At this stage, however, the use of these systems tends to be at the driver’s discretion. You can choose whether or not to set cruise control at 40 when you enter a school zone, or you can turn off the warning noises if they annoy you.

There’s a lot more that could be done with these systems to help us improve our own behaviour and keep ourselves and others safe on our roads.

Ultimately human behaviour can be resistant to change, no matter what we do with repeat offences, impaired drivers, police powers, bail provisions and criminal sentencing.

ISA technology offers us further options, and we already have evidence that shows it works. A trial in NSW in 2010 found that an ISA system reduced speeding in 89 per cent of trial vehicles, and reduced the likelihood of speeding by almost 30 per cent when the system was active.

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The Inquiry into Dangerous Driving heard from Dr Rod Katz of the Australasian College of Road Safety that a number of reviews of ISA technology have been conducted in recent years in Europe and Australia. Three levels of ISA have been identified, starting with advisory information, then warning systems and, finally, intervening or mandatory controls. This last level appears to generate the highest improvement in safety. Court-ordered installation of systems like this to curb repeat offenders could save lives.

In fact, we can easily do more with ISA technology. Heavy vehicles have had speed limiters for many years, and there is no reason why these could not be made mandatory on passenger vehicles.

The ACT Government itself should set high standards for the vehicles in its own fleet when it comes to using these systems. By providing a model for their use and advocating their adoption by other jurisdictions, the ACT can once again lead in the application of good government policy.

I will be pursuing these ideas in the Legislative Assembly, because every avoided accident means avoided financial cost and human pain.

– Andrew Braddock MLA is a Member for the Gungahlin-based seat of Yerrabi, elected to the ACT Legislative Assembly in 2020.

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Interesting concept but short-sighted. Different cars have different implementations of ADAS and – unsurprisingly – the more you pay for the car, the better the execution of the tech. I drive a late model Hyundai and it’s pretty good. The ADAS feels quite well integrated and most of the time I agree with the decisions it makes. When this is done badly, the control feels jerky and even my i30 has attempted to steer me into oncoming traffic on occasion. A rental I drove recently – an Audi, I think, was truly next-level for this stuff… Didn’t blink in some situations which I’m positive would’ve wrong-footed my car and the control was intuitive and seamless. Another rental car was decidedly the polar opposite. Bongs & dings and endless false positives. I couldn’t return that car fast enough and if a rental company ever tries to give me another one…
Given this breadth of quality in execution, are we really suggesting that turning over control is a good idea? The Audi was good but I was still glad to be in charge. What about older cars not equipped with this tech?
Technology challenges aside, I’d like to know the legal ramifications. What happens if – in Mr Braddock’s SkyNet-esque eutopia – an autonomous action of the vehicle causes a traffic violation? Is the driver still responsible?

Michael Greenwood4:40 pm 19 May 23

Australian driving culture is astonishingly poor. Anyone who has driven in countries with more advanced cultures can see that our training culture produces drivers with a ‘bubble’ mentality, as opposed to the ‘bigger picture’ mentality instilled in some overseas regimes. We simply don’t have the same grasp of what’s going on around us. The consequences of our ‘bubble’ mentality are much more serious than is thought in that it ingrains an inferior sense of spatial awareness. Hard for some egos to take, I know, but it’s the truth and it costs us untold death and terrible injury, torn lives, stupid collisions, and a constant river of billions thrown at the wrong cause. The poverty of our driving culture is invisible to almost all of us -even those public servants who ought to know better. Meanwhile, we continue to chuck vast sums at the symptoms of a dumb driving culture. Wisdom cannot be taught any more than stupid can be fixed.

“We simply don’t have the same grasp of what’s going on around us” That’s because we are we are brainwashed with looking at the speedo and not the road conditions

A speed limiter when overtaking a B double – yeah that will work – Not

Yes, this is what I was thinking.

Sometimes one of the safest moves when driving, particularly on highways, is to exceed the speed limit for a short period to execute a quicker overtaking manoeuvre. Rather than driving next to another vehicle inching past them over minutes.

Agreed. My primary objective in overtaking (other than the obvious), is to get back to the ‘safe side of the road’ as quickly as possible … so I’ll happily take the fine if I get pinged for speeding when overtaking – particularly a B double or road train.

I’ll stick with the Waze app. Motorists banding together to warn of hazards and dastardly revenue raisers hiding behind trees at the bottom of hills on straight stretchers of freeway

Ah yes cruise control! A well written opinion piece Andrew Braddock! I did quite a bit of long distance travel a few years ago and was a rusted-on cruise control fan. This was until I found out just how dangerous it can be if not paying attention.
I remember Mark Parton writing a rather good and amusing opinion piece a few years back in an awful, and still existing Canberra City magazine about his experiences with cruise control.
Maybe Mr Parton’s opinion piece can be resurrected in Riot-Act.

If you have adaptive cruise control, it’s fine

“… how dangerous it can be if not paying attention.”
This argument is absurd. If you’re not paying attention, the cruise isn’t the problem.
I do a great deal of distance driving and cruise control is a must. The advantage of cruise is that it allows you to prioritise your attention on the road and environment – focus on what the hell that truck is doing or scanning the shoulder for suicidal marsupials. at the first sign of trouble, tap the break and coast – plan & prepare for evasive action.
It may not feel like actively managing throttle input is impacting your cognitive bandwidth, but it is. Use the cruise.

@Adam Pitt
Agree 100% … driving a vehicle, a potentially dangerous “weapon”, is about proactively managing the variables, adapting as circumstances change, trying to anticipate and mitigate potential hazards. If you remove one of the variables – speed maintenance (particularly, as Futureproof observes, with adaptive cruise control) it’s one less input with which you must deal.
I consistently use the adaptive cruise control as an aid to my driving – it removes from the equation, one of the major “hazards” facing drivers – speed vans. And as you say – a slight tap on the brake or hitting the cancel button and you are in total control of the speed again.

I didn’t read, but what a surprise, the greens trying to control the majority because of the minority…

@buzz819, could the minority exhibiting the current dangerous driving behaviours be the same minority who vote green?

Someone not actually reading an article before running to the comments to say they disagree… How amazingly human of you.

TruthinMedia6:30 am 14 May 23

Sadly well intentioned but ill informed. This is technically feasible on well marked multi-lane highways which is where large EV trucks are already being tested. But it’s limitations such as inadequate vehicle road sign sensor technology, poor or on-existent road markings and signage especially in Australia, dappled shade on side streets and inability to retrofit this to most legacy vehicles (those owned by the economically and socially disadvantaged). Far easier to implement what Victoria has done (no grace speeds above the limit, you speed by even 1km/hr you pay a massive fine) and enable police to read the ‘black box’ on many new cars that records speed amongst other parameters by wirelessly accessing it from parked cars, those pulled over for other offences etc. this can be cheaply retrofitted to older vehicles at low cost. The ability to be retrospectively detected and massively fined will kill off most of the speed ‘creep’ above the limits – achievable in the short term and cheap to implement.

Victor Bilow9:25 pm 14 May 23

Do you actually drive with full concentration to all the things going on around you, if you do you are not looking at your speedo? IN A SCHOOL ZONE YOU ARE LOOKING FOR KIDS AND MUMS WHO PARK ALL OVER THE PLACE AND NOT THE SPEEDO! No grace speeds above the limit, you speed by even 1km/hr you pay a massive fine, Victoria is a MONEY grabbing state and SPEEDOS ARE NOT ACCURATE TO 1km/hr or 5 for that matter. Tyre wear and type changes your speed.

@Victor Billow
Ever heard of cruise control. Victor? Once you are familiar with it it’s easy to engage and takes the ‘speed limit variable’ out of the equation so you can concentrate on kids, etc. in school zones

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