Black box recorders for cars planned

In a bid to cut the number of deaths that occur on Britain’s road each year, the Government has announced plans to use black box like devices that would be attached to cars. The £500 devices would record data in the same way that a flight recorder does at the moment on aircraft.

Jun 1, 2007
By David Howell
Police-recorded hate crimes in England and Wales. PA Graphic. Source Home Office. Figure for 2019/20 not included due to missing data.

In a bid to cut the number of deaths that occur on Britain’s road each year, the Government has announced plans to use black box like devices that would be attached to cars. The £500 devices would record data in the same way that a flight recorder does at the moment on aircraft.

The black box would store the speed and steering angle of the car right up until the crash giving police and other agencies more information about each incident. The Department for Transport (DfT) is working with a number of international experts to perfect the technology that could be sophisticated enough to alert the emergency services who would use GPS systems to locate the vehicle.

The number of deaths on UK roads remains high. Some luxury cars already come equipped with black boxes, but under these new proposals all cars would have these devices as standard. A DfT spokesman said: “The Government recognises the contribution these devices make to improving vehicle safety particularly in the field of research. The use of equipment that can record details of an individual`s actions may have implications for personal privacy and these have to be considered carefully.”

In the USA a system called the Motor Vehicle Event Data Recorders (MVEDR) is already fitted to the vast majority of new cars, but legislation that would see the devices become compulsory has not yet been passed.

A spokeswoman for the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders Limited (SMMT) added: “This is something which has not really been discussed for quite a while. The engine management systems in some cars can record some of this kind of data, but there needs to be a balance between the issues of road safety and personal privacy. A lot more research needs to be done.”

For the emergency services having more information available would enable faster clear up times and aid the police in particular when deciding if a prosecution is required after an incident. Whether the devices become acceptable by the public and motor manufacturers alike, remains to be seen.

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