Volvo’s EX30 EV with Google built-in has a new in-vehicle speed limit-announcing safety feature that has passed the European General Safety Regulation (GSR) thanks in part to its use of Google Maps data for accuracy. The technology, known widely as Intelligent Speed Assist (ISA), augments the current posted speed limit on the instrument display at all times and warns drivers when they’re going too fast.
ISA isn’t exactly a new feat; many vehicles have had the ability to reproduce speed limit signs for the driver for years. It generally works by vehicles using various visual systems to pick up on posted speed limit signs and often combines that with built-in navigation map data. However, there’s plenty of nuance when it comes to speed limits, including different sign designs and time-of-day speeds, that hurts ISA reliability.
“You need to know things about the road network that you cannot see to know how fast you can drive everywhere,” VP and GM of Google Geo Automotive Jørgen Behrens tells The Verge. “Different countries have rules that, for example, when you enter a built-up area, you have to reduce your speed.”
Google’s automotive ambitions are helping automakers pass safety regulations
Behrens explains that car cameras can’t figure everything out, including if speed limit signs are obstructed. So Google’s Maps maintains accuracy by analyzing traffic trends, gathering local data, and cross-referencing street view or third-party partner data. The EU GSR requires vehicles to have 90 percent accuracy for ISA systems.
In case you were wondering, Google Geo is the team that handles products like Google Maps and Google Earth, whereas Google Geo Automotive is home to the company’s in-vehicle mapping ambitions, including Google Maps built-in and smartphone projection navigation (through Android Auto).
Geo Automotive works closely with the Android and Google Cloud teams on various products, including Google Automotive Services software suite, which is known externally as Google built-in (the equivalent of Google Mobile Services, or GMS, on Android, but for Android Automotive OS). Geo Automotive also assists with cloud services that car companies can use to store data, provides in-vehicle voice technology, and Auto SDK, which allows car companies to make their own navigation system using Google Maps data.
Behrens tells us that Google Geo Automotive offers automakers three different map layers. The first is HD maps that include lane and localization object data to build up autonomous driving systems. The second one is ADAS (advanced driver-assistance systems) Maps, which provides data that can help with safety systems like assisted cruise control and lane keep assist. And the third is the ISA map, which provides accurate and up-to-date speed limit data that helped the Volvo EX30 pass certification with the EU.
The US NTSB is also looking into Intelligent Speed Assist requirements
The partnership between Volvo and Google to release the new safety feature comes as the European Union gears up to launch new General Safety Regulation (GSR) standards that require new vehicles to warn drivers when they’re going over the speed limit. The regulation goes into effect on new vehicles registered after July 2024. The US National Transportation Safety Board is also looking into ISA and other safety features, like requiring cars to detect if you’re drunk — though no rules are set yet.
Volvo’s been at the forefront of speed-limiting safety features, and now, with its new ISA feature, it’s continuing that trend. As the new regulation looms, automakers are racing to find solutions to earn certification. Self-driving tech company Mobileye has also built an EU GSR-passing Intelligent Speed Assist that could work with other vehicles. Safety features are continuing to grow, but we’re still not at the point where we should count on them to save our lives.
Correction October 16th, 2023 12:56PM ET: A previous version of this article incorrectly said Google Geo Automotive oversees Google Built-in and Android Automotive OS. The team only works with other teams to assist on these products.