Now, in my ideal world, not only would cars be able to go over 75 mph, they would have to. GPS technology being what it is, there’s no reason we shouldn’t start converting all cars to being self-driven. They could communicate with each other to regulate speed and the like, and travel with far shorter following distances and at much greater speeds than is currently safe. This would allow for a bootstrapping of the existing road infrastructure, unlike rail proposals, reduce traffic and idle car usage, and make driving ever so much fun.
So there’s one problem with the proposal. Getting manufacturers into a habit of not accommodating high-speed travel makes the dream of driverless cars just that much further off. It’ll mean weaker engines that can’t scale to the speeds that makes driverless cars so promising.
But more fundamentally, this is a question of liberty. This is a completely unenforceable regulation; many if not most drivers would alter their cars to go above 75 mph, not least of which will be the cops and other first-responders who need to be able to go 100+mph. More than that, though, Ezra is right to acknowledge that cruising at 90mph is a wonderful, wonderful experience:
On the other hand, what Sepkowitz calls an “adolescent thrill” is also a pretty powerful joy. Ripping up the coast at 85 is a pleasure. And It’s not like I’ve seen a tremendous number of folks pushing 140. But it would seem, like with alcohol, that there’s a middle ground here, where repeated violators — or simply unsafe drivers — have their car’s engine lock engaged, and find themselves unable to break 75. They might not like it, but if you’re a reckless driver, your car is a weapon, and your right to speed is not nearly so inalienable as to keep society from disarming it.
That’s a compromise I could live with. But I’m just not comfortable with government regulating pleasure, even reckless pleasure. Anyone who knows me knows I’m a safe, even overly cautious driver. But I still love going fifteen or twenty above the limit on empty country roads, and any driver who says they don’t is either very strange or lying. I’m not saying it’s safe. But it’s a kind of recklessness that it’s worth finding a place for our society.