Seat tech boss: it’s ‘possible’ to stop cars speeding for good

One of the Volkswagen Group’s senior figures in in-car technology has confirmed it has reached the point where governments could insist that cars no longer break speed limits.

Leyre Olavarria, head of connected car and infotainment for Seat, admitted that cars actively preventing drivers from breaking a speed limit does not pose a technical challenge, given ‘intelligent speed assistance’ will be made mandatory from 2022. 

Asked what would happen if governments legislated for cars to no longer be capable of exceeding speed limits, in order to reduce road casualties and remove the cost of buying, installing and maintaining networks of speed cameras, Olavarria told Autocar: “From a technical perspective, it is possible. We can do it. It’s more a legal issue; how do regulators want to position themselves. It’s not a technical challenge to do that – the data is available.”

Some experts envision a future where drivers may choose to opt out, and switch off any system that prevented them from breaking a speed limit, in much the same way it is possible to cancel the electronic stability control system of some cars.

As the connected car and associated data becomes commonplace, many drivers have expressed concerns over the potential for data to be used against them. Olavarria said that, at present, GDPR data protection law clearly defines that data associated with driving remains private and the property of the owner of the vehicle.

“We are GDPR-compliant, and that is our priority. The data belongs to our customers and they are the only ones who can release the data. But if the law changes, then we will change as well and adapt our policies,” said Olavarria. 

Modern cars already alert the emergency services in the event of a serious accident. And Hyundai recently revealed that it was working with MDGo, a company that specialises in medical artificial intelligence systems, to provide detailed predictions about likely injuries to vehicle occupants, based on the forces involved, deployment of airbags and more. 

Olavarria manages Seat’s new software development centre, which is leading research and development solutions around micro mobility on behalf of the Volkswagen Group.

She defines micro mobility as being based on small vehicles, with two, three or four wheels, that will be used over short distances. “Looking into the future, there are many cities… that are trying to push the car out of the city centre but still there are mobility needs; people need to move from A to B. That’s what we are focused on,” said Olavarria. 

“As we are based in Barcelona, in the city centre, it’s kind of the perfect playground to test and make rapid prototyping in the real environment, and know about the city and mobility partners and better understand citizens’ needs and how mobility needs are changing.”

Seat claims to be platform agnostic, exploring subscription services that could, in the future, allow for individuals to subscribe to a mobility service that is priced according to a monthly mileage that allows users to seamlessly switch from a car to public transport to electric scooter or autonomous vehicles.

Olavarria is confident there will still be demand to sustain volume car manufacturing in the future, despite the millennial generation embracing shared transport solutions.

James Mills