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News | 12 Feb 2020

How ‘black box’ car tech could reduce accidents, pollution and insurance costs

Incentivising the take-up of smart driver-monitoring technology - or telematics - could assist the government in lowering the cost of motoring, reducing road accidents and improving air quality.

A new report from Vodafone, published today in partnership with economics and public policy consultancy WPI, argues that the government should do more to encourage the take up of “black box” telematics products in vehicles.

Simply put, telematics boxes record how a vehicle is being driven – its speed, acceleration and braking, for example – using GPS, accelerometers and other on-board diagnostics. This data can be sent wirelessly in real-time to insurance companies, who can then reward drivers with lower premiums in return for safer driving – so-called Usage-Based Insurance (UBI).

The report finds that drivers could save £190 a year on average, while new drivers could save £230.

Safer driving

While vehicle tracking is one of the most obvious characteristics of telematics systems, and a market in which Vodafone Automotive has made significant advances, telematics takes in a range of other functions which, when combined, can improve road safety, reduce carbon emissions, and lower the cost of motoring.

The hardware can monitor:

  • the time of day or night the vehicle is driven
  • the type of roads the vehicle is driven on (e.g. motorway)
  • the speeds on those roads
  • total mileage and number of journeys
  • the severity of braking and acceleration
  • the frequency of breaks taken on long journeys.

Not only can “black box” technology save drivers money through UBI, it can transform the way we drive, encouraging safer, more considerate driving that leads to fewer accidents and less pollution, the report argues. Gentler acceleration burns less fuel.

And when this tech is linked to Vodafone’s superfast 5G network, the data will be transmitted, and software updates downloaded, far more quickly, enabling the era of driverless vehicles.

Financial incentives

The report calls on the government to provide a financial incentive to drivers who embrace UBI technology in their vehicles, either in the form of a Smarter Driving Fund or an exemption from Insurance Premium Tax.

The report provides indicative costings for how much the two policy options listed above might cost over a five-year period, as well as the potential scale of the benefits that could be delivered.

  • To read the full report, click on the red Download Report button.
  • Read the full press release here.