New cars to be fitted with speed-limiting technology under EU rules
All new cars are to be fitted with special devices from 2022 to automatically make them keep to the speed limit under EU rules.
Intelligent speed assistance (ISA), advanced emergency braking and lane-keeping assistance are among a range of safety measures which have been given approval by the European Commission.
The legislation also addresses drink-driving, making it easier to retrofit an alcohol interlock device – a technological solution for tackling repeat drink-driving in use in a number of EU member states.
EU Commissioner Elzbieta Bienkowska said: "Every year, 25,000 people lose their lives on our roads. The vast majority of these accidents are caused by human error.
"We can and must act to change this. With the new advanced safety features that will become mandatory, we can have the same kind of impact as when safety belts were first introduced.
"Many of the new features already exist, in particular in high–end vehicles. Now we raise the safety level across the board, and pave the way for connected and automated mobility of the future."
Joshua Harris, director of campaigns for Brake, described it as a "landmark day for road safety", adding: "These measures will provide the biggest leap forward for road safety this century, perhaps even since the introduction of the seatbelt.
"These lifesaving measures come at a vital time, with road safety in a concerning period of stagnation with more than 70 people still being killed or seriously injured on British roads every day."
Safety features for European cars, vans, trucks and buses include technology which provides intelligent speed assistance, a warning of driver drowsiness and distraction, such as when using a smartphone while driving, and a data recorder in case of an accident.
They would also be fitted with reversing safety features such as a camera or sensors under the plans.
Devices for lane-keeping assistance, advanced emergency braking and crash-test improved safety belts are also suggested for cars and vans.
The new measures also include improvements to the direct vision of bus and truck drivers and the removal of blind spots.
The commission expects the plans could help save more than 25,000 lives and avoid at least 140,000 serious injuries by 2038.
The political agreement has yet to be formally approved by the European Parliament and Council.
This process could take several more months due to European Parliamentary elections in May, according to the European Transport Safety Council (ETSC).
The new safety features will become mandatory from 2022, with the exception of direct vision for trucks and buses and an enlarged head impact zone on cars and vans; these are set to be introduced at a later date as they will involve structural design changes.
Antonio Avenoso, the ETSC executive director, said: "There have only been a handful of moments in the last 50 years which could be described as big leaps forward for road safety in Europe.
"The mandatory introduction of the seatbelt was one, and the first EU minimum crash safety standards, agreed in 1998, was another.
"If last night's agreement is given the formal green light, it will represent another of those moments, preventing 25,000 deaths within 15 years of coming into force."
AA president Edmund King said: "There is no doubt that new in-car technology can save lives and there is a good case for autonomous emergency braking to be fitted in all cars.
"When it comes to intelligent speed adaptation, the case is not so clear.
"The best speed limiter is the driver's right front and the driver should use it to do the right speed in the right situation.
"The right speed is often below the speed limit, for example outside a school with children about, but with ISA there may be a temptation to go at the top speed allowed which may not be appropriate.
"Sometimes a little speed also helps to keep safe on the road, for example over-taking a tractor on a country road or joining a motorway.
"Dodgem cars are all fitted with speed limiters but they still seem to crash."