Black box technology is something we are all familiar with on aeroplanes – the one piece of kit that can give valuable insight into what exactly went on in the minutes leading up to a crash. But did you know this technology is already being used in the majority of modern cars, it just isn’t recording any data. However, if black box technology was standardised in cars the hope is it could help establish who is at fault in a road accident, while also monitoring your driving skills to keep your insurance premium down. In short, soon, it could be legal for your car to spy on you!
It is strange to think that the technology already exists in the majority of cars built in the last ten years. Over a decade ago a unit was developed to control the airbag, but now this tech has evolved into a device that plugs into the car’s computer system and monitors everything from your acceleration to your pedals, and even your indicators. But we don’t currently record this data? Why not?
Known as an EDR (Electronic Data Recorder), the little box could help clear up what happened in the minutes leading up to a crash, saving time and money – while also assisting crimimal investigations such as hit and runs. EDRs are already common place in America and have been utilised in a number of insurance claims and court cases with great success – saving thousands of pounds for the drivers and the insurer. In fact the tech has started to be regulated in a number of states with police able to know instantly the speed at which a driver was doing in a certain zone – although there is a dispute that this is an encroachment on our civil liberties, particularly when it comes to the question of who owns the data.
Up until now in Europe this data has not been recorded, but the EU have already started to pay closer attention to EDR technology with ‘Project Veronica’ – a report to improve crash assessment – with the hope that EDR technology could become standard in the next two years.
Tony Read, a specialist Incident Investigator from TRL (The Transport Research Laboratory) told the BBC that EDR technology could definitely help gain clarity when investigating the circumstances of a crash: “With the introduction of anti-lock brakes skid marks have disappeared, and with the introduction of stability control systems swerve marks have tended to disappear. If EDRs were more widely used, those points would be addressed and in my opinion accidents and the settlements associated with them will be settled in a fairer manner because of the availability of good solid reliable data.”
Crash investigators have previously gone to great lengths to prove to a court room what exactly happened during a crash including using 3D animation from different vantage points. But, worldwide courier company DHL have taken this idea a step further and put a camera system called ‘RoadScan’ inside 600 of their vehicles, with any scrape, crash, or accident being immediately recorded.
RoadScan are specialists in VEDRs (Video Event Data Recorders), providing companies with the ability to monitor and improve their drivers’ performance with the objective of promoting safer driving through driver behavior modifications. Previously any minor or major accident could have cost DHL thousands of pounds in litigation, but now with a driver’s every move on video, the company can see immediately who is at fault, while also being able to monitor their driver’s standards.
While Europe are behind America in terms of implementing this technology, it makes complete sense to take advantage of the gadgetry available to us if it will reduce accidents, improve driving skills, and hopefully reduce all our insurance premiums. If anything else, it’s one step closer to that knight rider fantasy coming true.