The new Ford Focus has an active safety feature called Intelligent Speed Assist, read on to learn what it does, how it works, and whether you should use it.

All new cars in Europe will be electronically speed limited from 2022 if the European Union mandates draft legislation. Once passed into law, car makers will be required to fit Intelligent Speed Assist (ISA) systems to all new cars from 2022 and on all updated cars from 2024.

More than this, car makers could be compelled to fit camera-based fatigue detection systems as well as alcohol interlocks. The introduction of ISA has widespread support around the world with accident researchers suggesting it could reduce road deaths by 20% or more.

Ford first introduced a speed limiting device on the S-Max back in 2016 but this vehicle wasn’t available in Australia and so it wasn’t until the arrival of the new Ford Focus that Australians have been able to access this active speed limiting technology. Practical Motoring tested the system in a new Ford Focus ST-Line (review coming soon).

Ford Focus Intelligent Speed Assist
You can see the ‘Intelligent’ box is checked to select the Intelligent Speed Assist, I’ve left the tolerance at 0km/h. And have activated the system by pressing the LIM button on the steering wheel. It’s illuminated green to show its active and I’ve set the speed to match the signposted speed limit…the car will then adjust the maximum speed allowed via the posted limit.

The idea behind the system is that a camera (mounted behind the rear vision mirror) scans the road ahead looking for speed limit signs. Then, via character recognition the system interprets the information and then displays the speed limit on the multi-information display behind the steering wheel and in-between the tacho and speedo. Plenty of new vehicles have this technology and largely it’s accurate; occasionally it can be tripped up by a slip road speed limit which might be different to the road you’re travelling on, or when you’re travelling through a school zone out of hours.

But Ford’s Intelligent Speed Assist adds another layer. Once you’ve turned on the ISL via the active safety menu which you can access through the right-hand side steering wheel controls, you then press the LIM button on the left side of the steering wheel and then, using the cruise control toggle confirm the speed limit so that it matches the one shown via the traffic sign recognition. This tells the system you don’t want to allow the vehicle to exceed the signposted speed limit.

Ford Focus Intelligent Speed Assist
The LIM button activates the Intelligent Speed Assist provided you’ve checked the ‘Intelligent’ box in the active safety menu.

But how does it do that? Rather than applying the brakes to prevent you from accelerating beyond the speed limit, the system reduces engine power by limiting the supply of fuel. This means, once you’ve bumped up against the signposted limit the vehicle will sit on that speed no matter how much pressure you apply on the throttle. Indeed, when moving from a 50km/h zone to a 40km/h zone the Focus ST-Line slowed from 50km/h to 40km/h with me maintaining the same amount of pressure on the throttle – the speed limit flashed until I’d reached the posted limit. I then slowly pressed the accelerator pedal all the way to the floor and yet the car didn’t budge.

Ford Focus Intelligent Speed Assist
You can see the ‘speed limit km/h’ has a line through it to indicate I haven’t selected to match the signposted limit or set a specific speed limit. If you match the signposted speed limit displayed this will tell the system to always match the signposted limit.

There is an override function…and this is a strong shove of the throttle. When you do this, you’ll see the speed limit flashing. Once you’ve eased off the throttle the vehicle will then take back over and slowly throttle back to the signposted speed limit. It’s all very controlled and very smooth.

Sure, it’s a little disconcerting when you lean on the throttle yet the car’s speed won’t budge but you get used to it. I didn’t have any missteps with the system out on the highway or when going from, say, 80km/h to 60km/h zones, but I acknowledge these traffic sign recognition systems can be tripped up, as it was for me when travelling through a school zone out of hours, when it slowed me down to 40km/h.

Generally speaking, though, once I stumbled across the system, I left it on all the time and found, particularly around town and during school zone times the system was great. There’ll be those who think this is the Nanny State gone too far, but around town I’m all for ISA as it stops you from creeping over the speed limit when you think no-one’s around and that will definitely make our roads safer.

So, if you’ve got a brand-new Focus, and this Intelligent Speed Assist is available on all variants sold in Australia (Trend and ST-Line), I’d encourage you to try it out and let me know what you think of it.

It’s worth mentioning there are likely to be Ford owners out there who see the LIM button on their steering wheel and think their vehicle has an Intelligent Speed Assist. No, it doesn’t. Rather it has an active speed limiter, meaning you press the LIM button and then use the cruise control buttons to increase or decrease the speed you want to drive at. Once the speed is set to match the posted speed limit like with ISA your Ford will run up against the set speed and hold it until you either adjust it up or down or override it. Having used this set-up in a Ford Everest I can vouch for its usefulness and effectiveness, especially when driving through long-running road works where it seems like nothing’s happening and you can creep…


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