Black box technology is data gathering technology similar to that used on aircraft.  The black box, which is about the size of a mobile phone, is usually fitted beneath the dashboard or bonnet. It records continuous information about your driving.  The data gathered includes information about where you drive and when you drive as well as mileage, speed, braking and steering.  That information is then used by insurance companies to tailor a premium, which is based on data about your driving rather than statistical estimates.  This can mean savings for drivers of all ages but particularly for young drivers. Telematics car insurance has been found to be the most affordable option for 68% of drivers aged 17-24.  However, you’re more likely to make a saving if the data gathered considers you to be a safe driver.

What are the advantages of driving with a black box?

Whilst the initial motivation for having a black box fitted is probably the desire to access cheaper insurance premiums, the technology also has the effect of making drivers more aware of their driving style and encourages safe driving, which is good news for all of us.  Should your car be stolen, the black box also operates as a very sophisticated tracking device.

You can access your telematics data and use it as a diagnostic tool to help you drive more safely and more economically.  You will probably need to wait for your annual policy renewal to see a drop in your premium although some providers will offer a monthly adjustment.  Of course, if you drive badly you can expect to see the cost of your insurance rise.  Some insurers impose a £250 penalty for dangerous drivers and persistent failure to modify bad driving could result in a termination of your policy, making it very difficult and very expensive to acquire a new one.

Are there disadvantages to fitting a black box?

Two of the variables considered by insurance companies when determining a premium are time and location.  If your daily commute to work necessitates you driving at rush hour on roads with a high incidence of accidents, you could find that even though you are a safe, careful driver, your premium is high.  Some insurers may even impose restrictions on where and when you can drive.  Also, some providers will allow you to transfer your data to another insurance company, but others will claim ownership, so it’s important to check the small print before you sign up.

What is the future of this technology?

Over one million cars in the UK are now fitted with a black box and the European Union has passed legislation to require speed limiting and black box technology to be fitted to all new cars after 2022.  The Department of Transport has said that even post-Brexit the UK will adopt this policy which will be retrofitted to older cars by 2024.  So, there may soon come a time when the choice of whether to fit telematics is no longer yours to make.