caja negra coche

Since 2022, it is mandatory for all cars to have one, but they have been used on airplanes for decades. They are known as EDR, Event Data Recorders, but everyone knows them by their more colloquial name: black boxes.

In the case of road vehicles, black boxes began to be used in the mid-1990s by American brands such as Buick, Chevy, and Cadillac. Today, most vehicles are equipped with one, although their function varies greatly from one model to another.

Black boxes: what are they?

They are usually placed under the driver’s seat, fixed to the chassis, and are around the size of a mobile phone. They are made from very resistant materials and capable of withstanding a road accident.

In most cases, EDR devices are installed during the manufacturing of the car, but today there are already alternatives aimed specifically at drivers. They can be purchased directly and installed by the user, for example, through a suction cup on the windshield, or connected directly to the car’s on-board diagnostic system. Some even offer the possibility of monitoring the data collected by the EDR through an app.

Car Event Data Recorder

What does a black box record?

Among other things, the device records data related to the speed, engine revolutions and trajectory of the vehicle. Furthermore, in the event that the vehicle is involved in an accident, the black box will also collect information from the seconds before and after the event, as well as the force of the impact, if any.

With this information, a computer will then analyze the accident, and what happened to the vehicle, to diagnose its most probable cause. 

But in addition to looking at past accidents and preventing future ones, black boxes collect other data to assess the vehicle’s performance in the event of a disaster. Data such as the position of the clutch or the way in which the airbags are triggered. Also, in some cases, the GPS in the black boxes can be used to locate stolen vehicles.

Sometimes, EDRs can be equipped with a camera that records what happens on video. These models are usually even more precise: in addition to the data, they record everything in the driver’s line of sight (and what was happening on the road), which can make it easier to assign responsibility when the car is involved in an accident.

informacion del coche con un tablet

Black boxes: the car insurance revolution

Of course, the use of black boxes goes beyond car manufacturers and their usefulness, beyond the mere analysis of how a vehicle behaved in the event of an unforeseen event. In recent years they have also been widely used by insurance companies. EDR information allows insurers to assess the risk of granting someone a policy based on their previous use of the car.

Furthermore, specifically for insurance policies, black boxes have an obvious advantage. While, until now, the price of insurance was based on a series of variables related to the driver, with the use of black boxes the price of insurance can be directly linked to their way of driving, based on real previous performance behind the wheel. And they could allow someone who would traditionally have received a high quote for their policy (for example, a driver under 21) to lower their costs by driving well and safely.

In some countries such as the United Kingdom, EDRs also allow insurance companies to limit the way the holder of the insurance can drive the vehicle. For example, they can stop them from driving in high-risk situations, at night or through dangerous areas. In some cases, they can even be used to establish a maximum driving distance because, obviously, the greater the number of kilometers covered, the greater the risk of suffering an accident.

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