Ford has introduced a new feature called Intelligent Speed Limiter. In a nutshell, you can activate it as part of your cruise control suite to allow the car to determine and follow posted speed limits. Predictably, many are crying foul. Facebook is being flooded with links breathlessly titled "Ford's New Car Will Force You To Obey The Speed Limit!" and comment sections are aflame with driving experts opining about how unsafe such a feature is. It's all worthy of a good facepalm. Let me explain:
First things first, the system is voluntary. The driver is in control of the system the entire time. It fits right into Ford's current stable of driver assist technologies including lane-keep assist, adaptive cruise control, eco cruise control, active park assist, and blind spot monitoring. Their navigation systems already show posted speed limits (and with pretty good accuracy here in New England.), so being able to tie that functionality into the cruise control could be helpful in situations where you'd like to avoid a speeding ticket. Examples include medium to long commutes or road tripping in unfamiliar territory where speed traps are common.
Secondly, it's perfectly safe. It's not going to prevent you from having to mash the throttle to avoid an accident or get your suddenly belabored wife to the hospital. Having used every one of Ford's driver assist systems, I can tell you they were designed to give up control at the slightest provocation. Ford's lane-keep assist will chime and even attempt to steer you back into the lane if you start to veer without using a turn signal. However, if it detects any resistance from the driver, it will temporarily deactivate and give up control to the driver. I imagine the speed limiter is going to be much like cruise control. If you want to go faster, press the accelerator and the vehicle will accelerate.
I'm not even going to touch the issue of the rationality or safety of the speed limits themselves. I think most of us agree they could stand to be a good deal higher in many situations, but Ford's system doesn't address that. It gives those with deep pockets and the tendency to do a few over an option to avoid speeding tickets when they so wish. Some people just need to have a Snickers and settle down.