Strange tales from the black box

Many modern cars, and probably all future cars, will have a tiny data collection device that will record everything that the driver and the vehicle gets up to—information that that could be used to make our roads much safer.

The drunk driver’s excuse for his wreck—that he swerved to miss a dog—will be even less convincing when the black box says otherwise.

Every driver will have a sentinel looking over his or her shoulder, watching every move.

Fascinatingly, this future is already here, with many vehicles in Europe being fitted with black boxes that belong to the insurance company.

And yes, they do phone home, and the tales they tell are revealing.

For example, the data confirms that speed is a massive problem on our roads. Drivers who speed just 20 per cent of the time increase their risk of a crash by 87 per cent.

And about one-third of drivers drive too fast for the conditions on the road at the time.

However, the technology has also evolved to help with behaviour change to address speeding problems. One black box telematics firm texts or emails the speedsters about their risky driving.

This results in those drivers reducing speeds by 15 per cent on average.

Furthermore, responsible drivers who don’t speed can win bonus miles on their insurance policy.

Another tale from the black box is that drivers who crash didn’t do it unexpectedly, “by accident”: there driving is often erratic and fast for a considerable period leading up to the crash.

The good news is that the black box tells the truth about women drivers—yes, they are better than men, drive more carefully, at lower speeds, and have fewer smashes.

Other fact to emerge from the data collected from billions of kilometres of trips:

  • Young drivers are far more likely to crash on 100km/h country roads
  • Older drivers are better than younger drivers at driving at night
  • Health workers are the safest drivers
  • The worst are those involved in motor sport