Reinventing a Safer Speedometer

Imagine a classy-looking car speedometer aimed at reducing the number of accidents as the speed of the vehicle will always read “safe”, meaning that the driver will not be tempted to drive over the speed limit. Well, here it is.

When you come across an expensive car you want to squeeze out every last mile for maximum value. This joy comes with a modern sport car which can make you feel like a real street-racer. Behind sophisticated design, an exotic car gives you a very quick ride. But in our everyday life we usually get a compact family sedan instead of a sport car and a good road overload instead of a racetrack. You should think twice before driving even a few miles over the speed limit. You should keep in mind that cars often crash at high speed and the results can be appalling. A higher speed increases the likelihood of an accident and magnifies other driver’s errors.

Better Approach to High Speed Problem-Solving

Driving across the countryside or in an urban area is a pleasure for those who know how to drive defensively. Each time driving may be treacherous and even dangerous; therefore, one of the most important things while driving is speedometer. A speedometer is not only an instrument used for indicating speed and dynamics of your vehicle, but also a gauge that helps you drive safely and monitor how fast or slow you are going. As a rule, speed limits apply to different types of vehicles traveling on three different types of road: urban road, motorway and highway.

The average legal speed is less than half-scale and ordinary driving speeds fill the lower half of the scale, with the highest useful speeds in the next quadrant beyond vertical. This impediment constantly tempts the driver to go faster and the speedometer needle is pushed farther over as the speed increases to unheard. There could be higher risk to lose control of the car at top speeds of at least 150 km/h (for my Amrican readers: 1 km/h=0.62 mph) which can lead to terrible consequences, such as accidents, injuries or even death.

What I am trying to deliver is that a well-designed speedometer can help reduce the number of road accidents and fatalities because the design of this gauge is critical to its usability and its effect on driver’s performance.

Re-Focusing Solutions for Speed Reduction

Electronically Limited Top Speed

Usually speedometer scales have higher numbers, but top speedometer speeds are limited by engine control computers. Car companies usually put a governor on the cars so they limit the speed of the car electronically to ca. 180 - 200 km/h.

Road, Motorway, Highway – Reasonable Speed Limit

Typical around-town speeds barely mount to 1/4 of full scale and generally the speed limit does not exceed 60 km/h. Speed limits on rural roads top out at 90 - 100 km/h, hence the speedometer needle will remain at the half scale position. The maximum speed limit on most highways is 130 – 150 km/h, which is more than half scale.

Fuel Consumption

Vehicles achieve better fuel economy at 90 – 110 km/h. Thus the indicator should be set at half-scale like the pointer of the car’s temperature gauge that tells the optimal temperature of the engine. An optimal speed icon can be also added. High-speed driving raises the fuel consumption and air pollution. It causes CO2 emissions with negative environmental impacts.

Speed and Acceleration

People like the needle to hit highway speeds at the top of the speedometer circle. If the speedometer scale is setup to read a lower speed the needle will start moving faster and the driver will get the sense that the car speeds up more quickly. Such tactics is designed to end the driver’s temptation to push a car to its limit.

Dangerous speed

Exceeding the speed limit may lead to serious consequences. It is dangerous to drive the car with the speed over 160 km/h. Even a small stone can cause an accident that might result in a serious injury. Reasonably, one should exercise at high speeds only over racetracks. That’s why this part of the scale should be compressed and highlighted in red. Usually, sport cars have the size of the speedometer slightly smaller than the size of the tachometer. Undoubtedly, engine speed and precise gear change are even more important for the rider.

Speed and Overtaking

Speed is not a particularly important aspect when you overtake, if the speed limit is exceeded only for a short time.

Innovation Excellence

With the accuracy of modern technology specially designed digital speedometers have a distinctive look – an info screen shows time, speed and other features. Obviously car makers take advantage of these innovations.

For speed fans vehicle manufacturers made a special indicator that is more or less useful on a race car: a tachometer and an eco-driving system that shows the standard and current fuel consumption. Unfortunately, there's a marketing pitch to it!

Speed can be displayed on a screen in large plain digits. But this method is quite inefficient and will make it impossible to determine truest vehicle speed because the speed is constantly changing as the car speeds up and slows down. A speedometer needle is a must-have that helps determine inaccurate speed and compare speedometer value with actual speed restrictions. For this reason, the same technologies are still widespread on airplanes.

Taking into account all the findings enumerated, a speedometer may look like this:

  • It has a standard look, hence it will feel quite familiar to drivers,
  • It will develop a detailed respect for traffic laws and safe driving practices,
  • The top speedometer speed limits comply with all legal restrictions and have a bit of extra space for over speeding.
  • On this speedometer, 90 km/h will always be right in the center of the scale.


The purpose of the new speedometer is more than just an attractive way of displaying speed because speedometers alone do not control speed. Drivers themselves are responsible for maintaining speeds with limits. Anyway, passengers’ safety is one of the most important reasons for improving speedometers. By all means this brand new classy-looking and easily-accessible speedometer can have a significant impact on reducing the number of accidents as the speed of the vehicle will always read “safe”, meaning that the driver will not be tempted to push the car to its limit. It represents an opportunity to use design principles to create higher levels of safety by designing for a specific user-behavior.