July 2, 2024 BY Kate Fefelovain News

Safe Speeds Ahead: The Promise of Intelligent Speed Assistance

Imagine a strategy that could prevent thousands of road deaths each year in the U.S. A strategy that limits the ability to drive at dangerously high speeds. A strategy that nearly eliminates the need for speed enforcement, whether through police-led traffic stops or cameras. You may be surprised to learn that such a strategy already exists – it’s called Intelligent Speed Assistance. Overlooked for far too long, fortunately, this game-changing strategy is starting to gain the attention it deserves.

What is Intelligent Speed Assistance?

Intelligent Speed Assistance (ISA) is a safety technology that supports drivers by alerting them when they exceed specific speed. It utilizes GPS-linked speed limit data and/or video cameras to recognize speed limit signs – features that are already built into many new cars. By combining this information with the vehicle's real-time speed data, ISA provides immediate feedback to help drivers maintain safe speeds. In 2023, this technology was recommended by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) to be standard equipment in all new vehicles. ISA is also one of the recommended safety strategies included in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) Countermeasures That Work. And the national Road to Zero Coalition’s Accelerating Technology Working Group recently issued recommendations for vehicle-based approaches to prevent speeding where ISA plays a central role.

Why Do We Need Intelligent Speed Assistance?

ISA ensures that vehicles consistently operate within specific speed, reducing the likelihood and severity of speed-related crashes, injuries and deaths. This is a prime example of taking an “upstream,” or Safe System approach, to roadway safety, as ISA manages vehicle speed at a fundamental level for safety for everyone.

Likelihood of deaths for people walking if hit at various speedsUnlike traditional methods that react to speeding after it occurs – such as police-led traffic stops – ISA preempts dangerous speeding by proactively preventing vehicles from significantly exceeding speed limits. This upstream approach minimizes reliance on punitive measures, which exacerbate racial and income inequities. And it fosters a safer environment for everyone, particularly people walking and biking and children and seniors, who are more vulnerable if hit at higher speeds.

ISA also brings advantages such as reduced emissions and fuel consumption. Furthermore, vehicles equipped with ISA may qualify for lower insurance premiums, since crash risks are lowered.

The European Transport Safety Council reports that ISA could reduce road deaths by 20% across the European Union, and Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) states that ISA can reduce speeding by up to 80%.

Where is Intelligent Speed Assistance Used?

ISA is not a new concept. Early versions, known as non-intelligent speed limiters or speed governors, have been used for years, including on commercial fleets. Recently, as part of a multi-departmental pilot program, New York City equipped 300 municipal vehicles, including 50 school buses, with ISA. These vehicles drove 1 million miles, with 99% adhering to set speed limits. The city also saw a 37% reduction in hard braking, indicating safer driving behavior (learn more about NYC’s impressive work on ISA and fleet safety here, including its success in securing a Safe Streets and Roads for All grant (SS4A) to extend the work to 2,000 fleet vehicles). Other U.S. communities are also considering ISA for their municipal fleets, including: Ventura County, CA; Somerville, MA; and Denver, CO.

In the European Union, ISA will be mandatory equipment for passenger cars, vans, trucks, and buses (with a few exceptions) sold starting this month, and it has been a mandatory feature for all new models introduced to the market for the past two years. Among other efforts across the pond is Transport for London’s plan to fully implement ISA across its bus fleet by 2032. Prior to ISA rollout, the London buses exceeded posted 20mph speed limits 15%-19% of the time, and after ISA installation, that figure decreased significantly to 1%-3%, a major safety win.

A main barrier to widespread ISA usage in the U.S. is resistance from automakers and a lack of political will to do the right thing by requiring this proven safety technology in all vehicles. As NHTSA states in its Countermeasures That Work: “...the main roadblock to implementation may be political, rather than safety or technological reasons.”

Supposedly, automakers are hesitant to incorporate ISA due to costs and/or perceived lack of consumer acceptance. But these concerns seem to miss the mark. Certainly the costs are no greater than today’s unacceptable emotional and financial costs of record-high traffic deaths and severe injuries. And claims of low consumer acceptance are spurious, at best. In fact, more than 60% of drivers say they would find it acceptable if their vehicle provided an audible and visual warning when exceeding the posted speed limit, according to an IIHS study. This acceptance increases to 80% if the ISA system allows a 10mph tolerance over the speed limit.

The need for ISA is clear. As NHTSA states: “the expectation is that drivers should be able to control their own speed, but as research has shown, drivers often lack the ability or the will to always limit speeding on their own,” which shows a need for support and encouragement for safe speed compliance tools.

Fortunately, some advocates and elected leaders are recognizing the promise of ISA – and they’re not waiting for federal agencies to act, even though ISA has been a federal research subject for more than a decade. Here’s what’s happening around the country:

  • In California, Senate Bill 961 proposes to require ISA technology in all new passenger vehicles, motortrucks, and buses manufactured or sold in the state, starting with the 2030 model year, must be equipped with ISA technology, with a few exceptions. The bill has passed the state Senate and is currently progressing through the Assembly (kudos to all the advocates who showed up to support the bill at the hearings!).
  • Both Washington, D.C., and New York State are considering laws to require ISA in vehicles of individuals convicted of serious, repeat speeding offenses. These systems would function similarly to alcohol interlock devices, which have been effective in reducing drunk driving among repeat offenders.
What You Can Do to Support ISA

The benefits of ISA are clear: safer speeds, fewer serious crashes, more lives saved and severe injuries prevented, improved mobility for all, and less dependence on enforcement. Thanks to a growing number of local and state policy initiatives, ISA could be poised to play a pivotal role in advancing Vision Zero nationwide. Now is the time to learn more and to act. Here are some ways to help move the needle on ISA:

  • Support policy initiatives (such as the California bill and others detailed above) to encourage implementation of ISA.
  • Cities, counties and states can add ISA on their public fleets, saving money on fuel and reducing crash rates and costs of crashes involving municipal vehicles (learn more in our recommendations to integrate vehicle safety in local and state Vision Zero work).
  • Sign up for America Walks’ Safer Fleet Challenge, which promotes the adoption of ISA in fleet vehicles to enhance safety and efficiency.

Imagine a strategy that could prevent thousands of road deaths each year in the U.S. A strategy that limits the ability to drive at dangerously high speeds. A strategy that nearly eliminates the need for speed enforcement, whether through police-led traffic stops or cameras. You may be surprised to learn that such a strategy already exists – it’s called Intelligent Speed Assistance. Overlooked for far too long, fortunately, this game-changing strategy is starting to gain the attention it deserves.

What is Intelligent Speed Assistance?

Intelligent Speed Assistance (ISA) is a safety technology that supports drivers by alerting them when they exceed specific speed. It utilizes GPS-linked speed limit data and/or video cameras to recognize speed limit signs – features that are already built into many new cars. By combining this information with the vehicle's real-time speed data, ISA provides immediate feedback to help drivers maintain safe speeds. In 2023, this technology was recommended by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) to be standard equipment in all new vehicles. ISA is also one of the recommended safety strategies included in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) Countermeasures That Work. And the national Road to Zero Coalition’s Accelerating Technology Working Group recently issued recommendations for vehicle-based approaches to prevent speeding where ISA plays a central role.

Why Do We Need Intelligent Speed Assistance?

ISA ensures that vehicles consistently operate within specific speed, reducing the likelihood and severity of speed-related crashes, injuries and deaths. This is a prime example of taking an “upstream,” or Safe System approach, to roadway safety, as ISA manages vehicle speed at a fundamental level for safety for everyone.

Likelihood of deaths for people walking if hit at various speedsUnlike traditional methods that react to speeding after it occurs – such as police-led traffic stops – ISA preempts dangerous speeding by proactively preventing vehicles from significantly exceeding speed limits. This upstream approach minimizes reliance on punitive measures, which exacerbate racial and income inequities. And it fosters a safer environment for everyone, particularly people walking and biking and children and seniors, who are more vulnerable if hit at higher speeds.

ISA also brings advantages such as reduced emissions and fuel consumption. Furthermore, vehicles equipped with ISA may qualify for lower insurance premiums, since crash risks are lowered.

The European Transport Safety Council reports that ISA could reduce road deaths by 20% across the European Union, and Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) states that ISA can reduce speeding by up to 80%.

Where is Intelligent Speed Assistance Used?

ISA is not a new concept. Early versions, known as non-intelligent speed limiters or speed governors, have been used for years, including on commercial fleets. Recently, as part of a multi-departmental pilot program, New York City equipped 300 municipal vehicles, including 50 school buses, with ISA. These vehicles drove 1 million miles, with 99% adhering to set speed limits. The city also saw a 37% reduction in hard braking, indicating safer driving behavior (learn more about NYC’s impressive work on ISA and fleet safety here, including its success in securing a Safe Streets and Roads for All grant (SS4A) to extend the work to 2,000 fleet vehicles). Other U.S. communities are also considering ISA for their municipal fleets, including: Ventura County, CA; Somerville, MA; and Denver, CO.

In the European Union, ISA will be mandatory equipment for passenger cars, vans, trucks, and buses (with a few exceptions) sold starting this month, and it has been a mandatory feature for all new models introduced to the market for the past two years. Among other efforts across the pond is Transport for London’s plan to fully implement ISA across its bus fleet by 2032. Prior to ISA rollout, the London buses exceeded posted 20mph speed limits 15%-19% of the time, and after ISA installation, that figure decreased significantly to 1%-3%, a major safety win.

A main barrier to widespread ISA usage in the U.S. is resistance from automakers and a lack of political will to do the right thing by requiring this proven safety technology in all vehicles. As NHTSA states in its Countermeasures That Work: “...the main roadblock to implementation may be political, rather than safety or technological reasons.”

Supposedly, automakers are hesitant to incorporate ISA due to costs and/or perceived lack of consumer acceptance. But these concerns seem to miss the mark. Certainly the costs are no greater than today’s unacceptable emotional and financial costs of record-high traffic deaths and severe injuries. And claims of low consumer acceptance are spurious, at best. In fact, more than 60% of drivers say they would find it acceptable if their vehicle provided an audible and visual warning when exceeding the posted speed limit, according to an IIHS study. This acceptance increases to 80% if the ISA system allows a 10mph tolerance over the speed limit.

The need for ISA is clear. As NHTSA states: “the expectation is that drivers should be able to control their own speed, but as research has shown, drivers often lack the ability or the will to always limit speeding on their own,” which shows a need for support and encouragement for safe speed compliance tools.

Fortunately, some advocates and elected leaders are recognizing the promise of ISA – and they’re not waiting for federal agencies to act, even though ISA has been a federal research subject for more than a decade. Here’s what’s happening around the country:

  • In California, Senate Bill 961 proposes to require ISA technology in all new passenger vehicles, motortrucks, and buses manufactured or sold in the state, starting with the 2030 model year, must be equipped with ISA technology, with a few exceptions. The bill has passed the state Senate and is currently progressing through the Assembly (kudos to all the advocates who showed up to support the bill at the hearings!).
  • Both Washington, D.C., and New York State are considering laws to require ISA in vehicles of individuals convicted of serious, repeat speeding offenses. These systems would function similarly to alcohol interlock devices, which have been effective in reducing drunk driving among repeat offenders.
What You Can Do to Support ISA

The benefits of ISA are clear: safer speeds, fewer serious crashes, more lives saved and severe injuries prevented, improved mobility for all, and less dependence on enforcement. Thanks to a growing number of local and state policy initiatives, ISA could be poised to play a pivotal role in advancing Vision Zero nationwide. Now is the time to learn more and to act. Here are some ways to help move the needle on ISA:

  • Support policy initiatives (such as the California bill and others detailed above) to encourage implementation of ISA.
  • Cities, counties and states can add ISA on their public fleets, saving money on fuel and reducing crash rates and costs of crashes involving municipal vehicles (learn more in our recommendations to integrate vehicle safety in local and state Vision Zero work).
  • Sign up for America Walks’ Safer Fleet Challenge, which promotes the adoption of ISA in fleet vehicles to enhance safety and efficiency.

Learn more: vehicle safety



Newsletter Sign Up

Fields with a * are required.


Scroll to Top