brexit

The real threat of EU speed limiters is to older cars

BACK to the Future might have ended a bit differently had Doc Brown ventured a few years further. Rather than only time-travelling as far as the heady, pre-Brexit days of 2015 and returning with a flying DeLorean capable of running on household waste, he might have found himself dealing with EU-mandated speed limiters instead.

It would have been a fairly rubbish ending, with our time-travelling star stuck in the 2020s because it’s no longer allowed to power up to 88mph (although it would’ve spared everyone the third film, which perhaps isn’t such a bad thing). Yet for all the hysteria you might have read in the tabloids about new cars having their velocity vetoed by Euro-approved intelligent tech, I reckon the real risk to the cars we know and love today lies much further down the line.

There is a lot in the European Commission’s rules for new cars post-2022 that make sense. Would I have a drowsiness-detecting sensor jolt the driver in the other lane back into action, rather than him drifting into my path? Most definitely. Help with braking in emergencies and better seatbelts? I’m down with that. There are suggestions too for tech that prevents you from driving if you’re plastered, which is long overdue.

It’s not the principle of the tech that troubles me, but the logistics. If all cars in a decade’s time have their speed controlled intelligently, then there has to be some sort of communication between their internal electronic trickery and whatever roadside gantry is beaming the signals out. This isn’t the stuff of Tomorrow’s World, as it was trialled down in Kent last year, but if you want to drive something older than a brand-new Audi you might find you’re at a disadvantage – or not allowed altogether.

Put it this way – I spent last weekend driving around in a 29-year-old Mitsubishi which, with a bit of TLC, could probably reach the same age again. It saves all the environmental grief of making a brand-new car from scratch, but because an electric sunroof and a radio/cassette is about the height of its gadgetry it would be a nightmare to retrofit with intelligent speed limiters and data recorders. The long-term risk is that it, and thousands of older cars cherished by their owners for all sorts of reasons, won’t be allowed onto our increasingly smart roads because they’re too analogue.

The challenge for the powers-that-be is working out how to move with the times without inadvertently legislating all of our Triumph TR4s, our MG Midgets and – in my case – our 29-year-old Mitsubishis off the roads.

Otherwise I’ll be asking Doc Brown if I can hitch a ride.

£1000 workplace charges are a great idea – if you live in London, and that’s about it

THERESA May is definitely the most Prog Rock Prime Minister that Britain’s ever had. Regardless of whether you voted Remain or Leave you’ve got to hand it to her; the outro for Brexit is way longer than anything Genesis or Pink Floyd could have rustled upSo I’m mightily relieved that over the weekend – day 4,372,918 of discussions over the nation’s EU departure, to be exact – the national press had something other than Theresa’s comeback gig to tune into, and just to get things off politics it was motoring-themed, too.

Nope, not whether it’s right that a 97-year-old who pulled out in front of some suspecting drivers should be told off for being spotted not wearing a seatbelt barely a day after being involved in a horrendous collision. Or the shock discovery that the husband of Her Majesty the Queen is given a Land Rover Freelander – a car that’s been out of production for nearly five years – to tootle about in.

In fact, the thing that got quite a lot of people wound up was some AA research revealing that at least ten local councils are considering introducing charges on workplaces with more ten parking spaces that works out roughly at a grand a year, per person. It worked a treat in Nottingham – so now Edinburgh, Glasgow and parts of London are playing with the idea too.

Go for it, London – you can handle it, if your swanky DLR, Crossrail and Croydon tram network is anything to go by, and I reckon Glasgow and Edinburgh are well connected enough to make it worth their while, too. But I can’t imagine that the mate of mine who drives half an hour from Birkdale into Rainford every morning would be terribly thrilled at having to fork out an extra £1000 for the privilege – or face a journey that’s three times longer, massively more expensive and which he has to take all his tools on the bus with him. Equally, I’d love to take the train rather than the car into work from the quiet market town where I live – if trains and buses ran that early.

Parking levies only work if people have a realistic choice in the matter. I’m sure it’s fine if you live in Bootle and work in the middle of Liverpool, but what if you live in a small village in one of the remoter bits of West Lancashire? The AA called the plans a Poll Tax on Wheels but I’d go further than that – it’s picking on people who, I’d put my not-terribly-well-connected house on, are driving into work because that’s the only option they have.

The only crumb of comfort is that it’s something that’s only being considered by individual councils rather that being a nationwide, blanket charge that’s been dreamt up in Whitehall – but then I suspect that the Government’s a bit busy with other things right now.

Like reminding Prince Philip that it’s about time for him to replace his Freelander with a Discovery Sport, for starters…

Bring back the Land Rover Defender – before everyone else ruins it

Production of the Land Rover Defender ended last year

ABOUT a year or so ago Britain made an historic – but rather controversial – decision. It decided to terminate its decades-old relationship with an international institution.

Since then crime’s increased, prices have gone up and there are mutterings from our friends in the farming fraternity over what they’ll turn to now for support. There have also been heated debates in pubs up or down the land over whether pulling the plug was the right decision, but my mind’s firmly made up.

We definitely need to put the Land Rover Defender back into production.

Since Britain’s best 4x4xfar by far exited the stage last March there’s been a weird void when it comes to truly hardcore off-roaders – and no, the Ford Kuga you have parked outside isn’t going to fill it. For all its terrible handling and lack of shoulder room it had a curious role in keeping rural Britain ticking, and ever since it departed the stage some very unfortunate things have been happening.

For starters crime really has been going up. With no new Defenders to buy people have simply been nicking the old ones, so much so that NFU Mutual is now reporting that thefts are up 17 per cent over the past year. The lack of supply also means that people prepared to pay for legitimate examples are having to stump up more for the privilege; a Defender bought brand new by Rowan Atkinson two years ago has just been sold on for a £20,000 profit, and that’s unlikely to be down to simply having a famous name on the logbook.

But worst of all is that in the absence of any brand new ones the Land Rover’s hard-earned reputation is being trashed by the tuning brigade. Every week I’m sent press releases by companies specialising in aftermarket cosmetic kits for Defenders, and they’re all absolutely dreadful. But people who normally buy Audi TTs and BMW X5s are signing up, turning the poor old Landie into a bit of a glorified tart’s handbag. One of only four or so cars to have made it onto the Sub Zero section of Top Gear’s Cool Wall is now a bit of a fashion victim.

Clearly, the only answer is to put the Defender back into production and restore order.

Forget all those emissions regulations getting in the way. Theresa May needs to instigate a special Defender Reintroduction Bill in the next Queen’s Speech, and make it her top priority once Britain leaves the EU.

In fact, let’s sneak this one in early!