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Ever since automobiles first appeared over 100 years ago, every automaker has tried to make them go faster. And they succeeded. Nearly every year, cars became more powerful with higher top-end speeds. But then, in the mid-1950s, we hit a plateau. The national speed limit was set at 70 miles per hour, and we've been stuck at that rate ever since. As a result, the automobile has made absolutely no progress as a transportation device in over half a century.

Speed itself is not a safety hazard. It's the difference in speeds between cars that lead to accidents.
Actually, in 1974, it got worse. The national speed limit was lowered to 55 mph, ostensibly to save fuel and lives (it did neither). Such an agonizingly slow rate of travel proved too much to take for most Americans. We demanded that the limit be raised, and we got it back to 70 mph. Now it's time to demand another raise.

I'm not talking about some sort of modest increase to, say, 85 mph. We need to put a comprehensive plan in place to gradually move the limit up, over the next couple of decades, to 150 miles an hour. And we need to do that with no sacrifice in fuel economy or safety.

Continue reading Opinion: Time to raise the speed limit, how does 150 MPH sound?...

[Image: Getty]

We're literally on the verge of making it almost impossible for cars to crash into one another.
People tell me it's impossible or crazy to design passenger cars to go 150 mph. But do you want to know why German luxury cars are so good? Because they're designed to go 150. In fact, most of them have speed limiters on them. Otherwise, they'd go faster.

Speed itself is not a safety hazard. It's the difference in speeds between cars that lead to accidents. Somebody driving 50 mph while all the cars around them are flashing past at 70 mph or greater is creating a hazard. But if everyone is going the same speed, the situation is a lot safer – even at much higher speeds.

Just like today's Autobahn, some sections of highway would have lower limits, while others would be set at the maximum. The speed limit could also vary depending on the time of day and traffic load.

Before this decade is out we're going to see big strides in vehicle-to-vehicle communication, using radio frequencies and GPS. We've already got adaptive cruise control and radar-controlled braking. Put it all together and we're literally on the verge of making it almost impossible for cars to crash into one another, even if the driver fails to act. In the next decade, we're going to see the first commercialization of autonomous technology, where cars can literally drive themselves. That opens up the door to a 150-mph speed limit on national highways.

A 150-mph speed limit would transform automotive transportation. I daresay no one would ever again take an airplane ride of 500 miles or less.
This technology also creates the opportunity to use what the transportation experts call "platooning." Cars could travel in packs, or platoons, in a nose-to-tail file not unlike the NASCAR guys drafting each other. But in this case the cars would be electronically linked together. And that kind of drafting would produce significant gains in fuel economy.

A 150-mph speed limit would transform automotive transportation. I daresay no one would ever again take an airplane ride of 500 miles or less. It would be so much faster and convenient to drive – no more pat downs from the friendly TSA agents!

Setting this kind of stretch goal would unleash a frenzy of R&D activity, create new companies, grow new jobs, and produce an economic boom much like building the Intestate Highway System did. It's just a matter of getting our heads around the idea.

Back in the 19th Century, Queen Victoria stipulated that any time she travel by train it was prohibited from going more than 40 miles an hour. The thinking was that going any faster than that was harmful to one's health. We laugh at that concept today, just as, later in this century, they'll laugh at us for thinking that driving 150 mph was dangerous.



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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 119 Comments
      • 3 Years Ago
      I'm just curious. How do you propose to go 150mph with no impact on fuel economy? Our Toyota Matrix at 70mph gets 28mpg. At 90 it drops to 24.

      Not to mention we don't have perfect roads here in the US. At 150mph ALL cars become much more difficult to control, with defects, dips, slopes and bumps pulling your car side to side. One of the Veyron SS test drivers once made a comment about how at 200mph, he didn't drive the car, the road did. Granted, 150 isn't 200, but not everyone is a professional driver.

      I'd settle for ~100 mph in the more open/rural areas of freeway, and possibly a 10-15mph leeway depending on traffic/weather/visibility conditions on slower areas.
      • 3 Years Ago
      Is this a joke?! If you slam into a tree at 50mph, you can walk away with a couple of scratches. If you slam into a tree at 150mph, both you and the tree are DEAD! WTF AUTOBLOG! SLOWER SPEEDS SAVES LIVES!
      • 3 Years Ago
      To the genius who wrote this blog and suggest that the speed limit should be 150mph, have yo thought about:

      Fuel economy? Okay, you can say we’ll drive electric or whatever.
      Cars entering the freeway from the ramp?
      Emergency responses during driving? Let’s say you look down to pick up your French fries and 1 second later when you look up you see a car or a brick or a bird right in front of you? With my bad math, at 150mph, the car would be going 220 feet per second, so how fast car you response and how far can you see?
      How long it takes to slow down a car going at 150mph, especially at that speed down to a dead stop such as when you are driving and the free got jammed up with traffic in front of you? Or when you have to take the off ramp? Or emergency braking such as when there is an accident in front or when there is a block of wood or a refrigerator on the road?
      The things that can happen to your car accidentally at that speed, such as a tire blow out, lost to steering and braking?
      Can you effectively swerve from danger at 150mph?
      Do you realize how much worst a flying rock is to your car at 150mph versus at 85mph? You think yoru paint for chip now, wait until the speed double. Even if cars can recognize other cars, can car recognize other things around them? I doubt not.
      And do you realize how much safer and better a car have to be to be traveling at that speed all the time and still be drivable for the many years to come? You’re looking at a car doing +4000rpm constantly.
      Have you ever driven above 100mph on a public road?

      I know that you can argue successfully against all of my questions since there are exceptions to them. And some of the things I say repeated itself. But over all, suggesting that the speed limit should be 150mph is absurd.

      There a lot of major differences between 85mph vs. 150mph. Driving 150mph on empty interstate freeways don’t sound so bad but in general it’s still a bad idea.

      May be in 50 years where car can fly and have shields against laser, photon torpedoes, and other object, we can go 150mph then

      Whoever wrote this blog should be tested for drugs and competency.
        • 3 Years Ago
        Hell not only is it problematic with how long it takes to stop at 150mph, but the skill it takes too. At those speeds it's not just mash the breaks and the car rolls to a stop.
      • 3 Years Ago
      Wow, I thought John McElroy was some crazy kid who wrote stuffs while being high. But, he’s an old man. I thought he should know better. This blog wasn’t written on April 1st either. It goes to should wisdom doesn’t always come with age.

      There are so many reasons against 16-mph speed limite, as I’ve written some of them in my previous rant. I’ve driven at 100mph to 150mph only 5 to 10 times on the interstate with no traffic, light traffic, and medium traffic, and I there is no way I would ever recommend the speed limit be at 150mph. I did it with a couple of rentals and my own cars. I even cruised at 110mph for more than 15 minutes. And at those speed, nothing can be taken lightly. A little tilt of the steering wheel and you’re about to leave the lane you are in. a bi of a wind gush and your car will feel it. The car is over worked. And braking takes forever just to even slow down to a more manageable speed like 80mph. I can’t even try to imagine making a completely dead stop at 150mph if I see like a 16 wheels tipped over within my visual range.
      Dean
      • 3 Years Ago
      Terrible idea! The roads in this country are dominated by over-sized trucks and SUVs, they would become 150mph missiles, ready to destroy anyone unfortunate enough to be driving a sedan or a compact car.
      • 3 Years Ago
      I agree with your premise and objective, and think the concept that higher speed limits would lead to increased safety and fuel economy an interesting notion.

      However, I would like to see more statistics. I agree that the difference in speed is the main issue. Would a Dodge Cavalier that tops out at 120 mph not be allowed on the interstate at this point? Also, you neglect non-traffic based obstructions, like deer jumping out onto the interstate, or a wrecked vehicle just over the hill. Roads would have to be redesigned to be flatter, straighter, and have higher barricades. All feasible ... but I think an 85 mph national speedlimit is reasonable to suggest as is.
        • 3 Years Ago
        with all due respect, we need a speed limit to how SLOW cars are allowed to travel on the free way, not how fast they can go.

        for a 4 lane high way, the minimum speed should be something like 40 mph for slowest lane, 50 for middle lane, 60 for fast lane. the last lane should be used for passing only. Police should start handing tickets to drivers who aren't driving in the proper lane, or aren't supposed to drive on the high way to begin with.
        • 3 Years Ago
        sugaki:

        >As far as poor roads are concerned, then just have the limit lower there. On a wide-open, well-paved freeway, 80 mph is safe. 70mph seems arbitrary when going down an empty straight stretch of the I-5.

        If you can convince the lawmakers to allocate additional $$$$$ towards this effort - especially given the current political climate - more power to you...

        Until then - the "When pigs fly" statement is quite realistic...
      • 3 Years Ago
      I didn't know that autoblog employees were allowed to troll.
      Lowering the speed limit saved between 3000 and 5000 american lives annually. That is MORE than the number that died on 9 11 01. We went to war over those 3000 lives, but we can't drive slower for another 3000 lives?

      As far as fuel saved 250,000 BARRELS per DAY for scale, that's about 1/2 of the largest tanker ever built saved every day http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seawise_Giant
      • 3 Years Ago
      lets see.. my 2.4 4cyl can get 40mpg going 55

      anything above 100 and that number drops into single digits.

      we are nowhere near ready
      • 3 Years Ago
      We as a country do not teach to drive. People behind the wheel on the road are not 'drivers', they are just there for the ride. And there lies the problem. People have no sense of acceleration/braking/inertia/lane-discipline.

      Raising the speed limit to 100MPH out West on many roads would make sense, along with an intense campaign for lane discipline.
      • 3 Years Ago
      HAHA yeah right my jeep's top speed is 85mph i would be going "to slow"
      • 3 Years Ago
      I doubt this will happen. The insurance industry invests millions of dollars in lobbyists, and they'll have the last say in this...
      • 3 Years Ago
      Not going to happen...

      - The amount of money needed to transform our highways is non-existant.
      - The amount of money needed to police these highways properly, is non-existant.
      - The amount of money needed for R&D to make our cars safe at these speeds, would be astronomical.
      - The amount of schooling and proper driving techniques and training versus european standards, again, not even a comparison.

      I despise McElroy's articles. For a guy who covers the auto-industry on a daily basis, he's very out of touch.
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