New York City officials announced Thursday the launch of a pilot program to test technology that automatically slows vehicles in the municipal fleet if they go above a posted speed limit. Mayor Eric Adams and Dawn M. Pinnock, commissioner of the Department of Citywide Administrative Services, said at a press conference that a group of city agencies will install active intelligent speed assistance, or ISA, on 50 vehicles as part of a broader traffic-safety effort.
“Right now, it depends on the human interaction and sometimes the distractions on the road prevent the humans from staying within the speed limit,” Adams said. “But now these new vehicles and this new technology that we’re using is going to do just the opposite.”
ISA systems use GPS-linked data to detect the speed limit on a given road. Passive systems give the driver audio or visual warnings that they’re speeding. Active systems, like the one New York City is testing, automatically tap the brakes or make the accelerator more difficult to press if the driver goes over.
“We have telematics in the cars, so we are tracking the vehicles as they drive through the city, and we have the speed limits overlaid over those telematics throughout the city,” Keith Kerman, the head of the city’s fleet, said during the event. “So, as you drive the car, and we set this for a 15 mile hour zone, as you attempt to go over 15, the vehicle will not allow you to accelerate over 15.”
The city’s default speed limit is 25 miles per hour, but varies from block to block and on highways, bridges and tunnels. Adams said that after the announcement he would test the technology by riding in a 15-mile-per-hour zone at the Staten Island fleet yard where the press conference was held.
Kerman also said the pilot program began quietly three weeks ago, and has already logged more than 10,000 miles.
New York City operates the country’s largest municipal fleet, with more than 30,000 police cars, fire engines, sanitation trucks, street pavers and passenger vehicles, spread across 60 agencies. It cost about $80,000 to install the active ISA systems in the pilot project’s vehicles, with participating agencies including the city’s departments of Corrections, Parks, Environmental Protection and Transportation.
The Department of Citywide Administrative Services also said passive ISA systems are already present in many city-owned cars, and will be expanded, Kerman said. The ISA programs are part of a “Safe Fleet Transition Plan,” an initiative launched in 2017 under then-Mayor Bill de Blasio.
Adams’ administration said the fleet plan folds into a broader traffic-safety agenda that received $900 million in the city’s fiscal 2023 budget, including plans to redesign about 1,000 intersections across the five boroughs and to spend $4 million promoting “Vision Zero,” an eight-year-old program that aims to eliminate traffic deaths. But like other U.S. cities that’ve launched “Vision Zero” programs in recent years — including Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Austin and Washington — New York in 2021 recorded its highest number of fatalities in years.