Would you buy a car that makes you obey the speed limit?

Ford says it will soon be releasing minivans in Europe that obey the speed limit. How long before this technology spreads to other models?

Joe Sutter/The Messenger/AP
This photo taken in February shows Market Street, Gowrie, Iowa, where the speed limit drops from 25 to 20 mph.

Ford might have come up with a cure for the lead foot.

Announced last week by Ford's European subsidiary, the "Intelligent Speed Limiter" can recognize speed limit markers through a mounted camera on the windshield. Beginning in August, the company plans to install the feature in its S-Max minivans, which it sells in Europe

A press release from Ford of Europe describes how it works. When the speed limit is reached, the system "does not apply the brakes but smoothly controls engine torque by electronically adjusting the amount of fuel delivered." Drivers can set the system to a tolerance of 5 miles per hour over the speed limit. 

The system allows drivers temporarily override the speed restriction by pressing down firmly on the accelerator. The system also gives drivers the option of setting their own preferred maximum speed, regardless of what the law says. 

Ford emphasized how the system could save money for motorists. The company told the BBC that some 15,000 drivers in the United Kingdom alone were given fines of more than $150 in 2013. 

In the United States, the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration estimates that speeding causes 10,000 traffic fatalities each year, about one-third of all motor-vehicle related deaths. An NHTSA survey found that 91 percent of Americans agreed with the statement that "everyone should obey the speed limits because it's the law." Yet more than a quarter also said, "speeding is something I do without thinking," and one in five admitted, "I try to get where I am going as fast as I can."

The BBC reported a Ford spokesman said that the company is aiming to expand this technology to other models in the coming years. By using technology to cap how fast people drive, it is a sign that motorists could be open to giving up more control of their driving experience in the name of having fellow drivers operate at safer speeds.

"Removing the human element is one way to provide safety, but we know that computers go wrong," Paul Newton, an automotive industry analyst at the IHS consultancy, told the BBC. 

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