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Mobility & Transport - Road Safety

Black boxes/ in-vehicle data recorders

Black boxes/ in-vehicle data recorders



Black boxes/ in-vehicle data recorders

What are black boxes or in-vehicle data recorders?

These devices can be used in cars and commercial transport as a valuable research tool to monitor or validate new safety technology, to establish human tolerance limits and to record impact speeds.

Black boxes can also be used to influence driving behaviour and facilitate forms of automatic policing (100% surveillance of all traffic offences). Offenders can be tracked more easily and fined automatically by means of devices such as Electronic Vehicle Identification - See EVI website. At the same time the system can be used to reward safe behaviour [42] and to reduce insurance premiums [59].

Two types of in-vehicle data recorders are currently used: crash data recorders and journey data recorders.

Crash data or event data recorders

These collect data over a period before and after the crash. They are often based on the airbag control module and will cease to store information once the airbag has deployed [33].

What road safety problem do they address?

These devices are an important monitoring and research tool for road safety management, as illustrated below.

Usefulness of event data recorders or crash recorders[30]

  • Increased quality of accident data
    • Increased accuracy of data
    • Possibility to use information previously not possible to obtain
  • Better evaluation of new safety technology
  • Knowledge of injury thresholds for the design of a crashworthy road transport system
  • Better understanding of injury causes and injury mechanisms
  • Influence on accident involvement risk?
  • Useful from legal aspects (insurance)
  • Information used for "e-Call" systems
  • Pre-crash data to investigate collision causation - Evaluation of active safety systems
  • Crash data to investigate crashworthiness
    • Evaluation of interior safety systems
    • Calculation of injury risk versus impact severity
  • Crash reconstruction

How effective?

Data recorders as enforcement devices. Research indicates that data recorders fitted to trucks and vans lead to an average reduction of 20% on the number of crashes and damage [59]. The effect derives from the driver's knowledge that traffic law infringements can in principle be detected by examination of the driving records.

Value of crash data recorders based on past experience [53]

  • Significant improvement in crash reconstruction
  • Legal security
  • Attentive driving
  • Direct or indirect reduction in crashes and damages
  • Reduction of fuel consumption and vehicle maintenance
  • Real data for vehicle safety design
  • Real data for tuition and training
  • Legal (data privacy) concerns that can be overcome
  • Limited interest from original equipment manufacturers in Europe

Main aims of event data recorders based [53]

VERONICA recommended that the main purpose of event data recorders is to :

  • Provide reliable information
  • On vehicle crash causation
  • Via wireless format in the vehicle
  • For further processing by certified experts
  • For dedicated road safety, legal, security and crime fighting application

Data recorders as research tools

The increasing use of intelligent systems means that it is increasingly difficult to assess the performance of systems in crashes. Dual-stage airbags have been fitted to cars for several years yet it is not possible to assess the level of deployment without stored data. Similarly there are many intelligent primary safety systems entering the market and it will only be possible to assess the impact on safety at a detailed level if there is stored data on their operation. Finally, while all restraint systems are tuned to a particular range of crash acceleration pulses, derived from barrier tests, we need crash pulse information from real-world studies and only crash recorder data can supply this.

Benefits to cost:

The benefits and cost ratios of Crash Data Recorders have been estimated for the Netherlands [33].

Who uses them?

Crash Data Recorders have been used for many years in cars and commercial transport. In the US, the car manufacturer GM has been using them since the 1970s to evaluate the performance of airbags in crashes. In the UK, police fleet cars have been fitted with black boxes. In Germany a crash recorder called UDS by Mannesmann/VDO has been on the market for more than 15 years.

Examples of event data recorder use in "large fleet" projects[30]

  • Since 1990s - GM and Ford cars (more advanced in late 90s)
  • Since 1995 - Volvo DARR in Volvo cars - approx 500,000 cars fitted- and in Saab cars
  • Since 1992 - Folksam CPR project - 220.000 cars fitted with Crash Pulse Recorders
  • Since 1995 - UDS in Austria, Switzerland and Germany

Next steps for implementation?

The EC project VERONICA made various recommendations on the next steps for implementation of Crash Data Recorders in the EU. The project reviewed the standardisation of procedures and tools to retrieve the data, the use of the data collected (for crash research, by the police to check driving conditions, or in legal applications to help in the determination of the responsibilities in a crash) and questions concerning the ownership of the data. It recommended the targeting of various road user groups, commencing with the commercial transport sector. It recommended that a UN ECE Working Group be established to prepare a technical specification. It was further recommended that the EU should introduce a Directive rather than a Regulation to give Member States flexibility in implementing Crash Data Recorders.

Target groups for use of event data recorders from the enforcement and insurance points of view[53]

  • Hazardous goods transport
  • Coaches and buses
  • Commercial vehicles
  • Vans
  • Emergency service vehicles
  • Motorcyclists
  • Young drivers

It is important to ensure that data from recorders will be collected and stored in such a way that it is available to designers of both cars and road-side objects, and especially to the responsible bodies for the road transport system [30].

Journey data recorders

These collect data during driving. Journey data recorders can provide information regarding driving behaviour and any law infringements, they can be used to monitor driving in relation to insurance costs and the information can be used for traffic management purposes. They can also be an important source of research data regarding the risks of normal driving and the nature of traffic conflicts.

Benefits to cost?

The benefits and cost ratios of Journey Data Recorders have been estimated as 20:1 for the Netherlands [33].

Who uses them?

Tachographs are used in commercial vehicle use to monitor drivers hours of work, speeds and to track cargo. One further example in use is the SAGA system developed in Iceland, which allows for monitoring and reporting on vehicle position and use, speeds relative to posted limits as well as other aspects of driver behaviour. The system is currently used in vehicle fleets of 70 companies leading to significant registered reductions in crashes [38].

Next steps for implementation?

The OECD and ECMT addressed the issue of how journey data recorders might be employed to reduce young driver risk and concluded that economic incentives such as lower insurance premiums could be employed to encourage their use [38]. In addition it was suggested that parents might be able to insist that certain technology be placed in vehicles used by their children.