The future of speed limits

Despite the rise of self driving cars, could you imagine a world where cars forced drivers to obey the speed limit and potentially other rules?

BMW’s new 4-series cars take an unconventional approach on reading speed limits. Instead of building some cloud based system, they’ve added two front cameras to literally read road speed signs! What’s interesting isn’t how cars figure out the speed limit, but what they have the potential to do with this additional context.

People don’t take speed limits, among many other laws, seriously.

…findings by researchers from Purdue University who surveyed 1,000 motorists about speed limits and driving habits…findings were consistent with other research that has shown two-thirds of all drivers regularly exceed posted speed limits, and roughly one-third report driving at least 10 m.p.h. faster than most other vehicles.

As far as I know, the 4-series cars currently just display the speed limit from the electronic dash. What if they went further and forced their cars to honor speed limits and perhaps other traffic laws. It wouldn’t be very hard with the technology we have today.

An idea like the one above would be accused by society of being an attack on personal freedom. BMW, a company that builds cars exclusively for the driving experience, would especially not allow something like this.

But … the forced speed limit concept is just an intermediate step to self driving cars! Self driving cars will certainly follow all traffic laws robotically, otherwise they would be far too dangerous and also blatantly illegal.

What’s really interesting, is the mostly positive public sentiment to self driving cars. People are cool with Teslas' having complete control of the driving experience for the sake of ease and safety, but they likely would not drive a car which gives partial autonomy because they feel like their personal freedoms are being betrayed.

Lucas Ou-Yang Hey, thanks for reading! I'm Lucas Ou-Yang, I live in Los Angeles and work fulltime at Snapchat Inc. My main interests are in content ranking and user-experience, I have a good amount of industry experience at both Snapchat and Facebook with ranking & product work. I also authored the most popular python news scraping library on Github: Newspaper, check it out! Feel free to send me an email with any comments, concerns, or requests!

Want to get to know me more? Read my bio and resume.

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