This 2020 Nissan Titan truck can read speed limit signs

Nissan Titan truck driving on rocky desert
Credit: Nissan

For most of us, driving is an exercise in staying vigilant at all times. We have to pay attention to the road conditions, what other cars are doing, and also if there are any construction delays. In Minnesota, where I live, construction is an ever-present problem. Oh, let’s close an entire road for a month and make everyone drive a few miles out of the way, no problem. Winter here tends to create a few extra potholes than other states, just to annoy us.

Recently, I tested a 2020 Nissan Titan truck and found it alleviates one of the most common frustrations about driving — namely, that I am not sure what the speed limit is anymore. Some vehicles can capture this data using the GPS, but that also means you need to keep the GPS running on the screen and not, say, the audiobook you’re listening to for research purposes.

What I like about this feature is how it shows the speed limit right in the main display above the steering wheel. And, it is not dependent on GPS, which can be a little out of date at times. Instead, a sensor reads the actual sign as you drive. Known as Traffic Sign Recognition, it’s something I’ve seen a few times in luxury cars like those from BMW and Audi but not in a full-size pickup truck like this. I’m not sure if the distraction level is any different in a truck than a luxury car (maybe it depends on what you’re towing or if you have a refrigerator in the truck bed), but I did find myself using it several times on multiple trips.

One reason GPS can be out of date is that local municipalities like to experiment and make changes. I have noticed this several times — a speed limit changes from 30 to 35, or even from 30 to 40 for no apparent reason, and the GPS does not show the correct speed limit. It might be a construction change, a new stretch of road, or even a change related to a new intersection. There’s one in my area where they added a stop-sign and then raised the speed limit.

I’m sure there are a lot of theories about why they make these changes, and it might also be true that I’ve always thought the speed limit was a set number on a specific road, but it changed a year ago, and I never noticed. I don’t always look at the GPS to check the speed, and in some cars, the GPS doesn’t actually show this data. Also, you have to look at the screen.

I prefer the way it works with image recognition. It’s more accurate because it’s reading the actual physical sign by the side of the road. Plus, the placement of the display is in my primary field of view, so no need to glance over at anything. Of all the safety tech available in modern cars and trucks, this one might seem somewhat optional — I could just pay more attention. However, I swear during my week-long test, I monitored and adjusted my speed way more often.

Self-monitoring your speed has a few benefits. One is that it is safer to drive that way. I’m not a legalist, but there’s a reason towns lower the speed limit around residential areas. There’s also a big difference between 30 MPH and 45 MPH when it comes to stopping suddenly.

Of course, the other reason is to avoid a ticket. I’m torn on which incentive I like better, but in the end, it meant I was driving a full-size truck with a bit more vigilance.

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