In-car black box scheme to improve road safety

7 Nov 2003

The Department of Transport has entered into a project with IBM and Safety Intelligence Systems (SIS) to make Ireland the first country in the world to install black boxes similar to those used in the aerospace industry into cars. The scheme is intended to help boost emergency response, combat fraud and reduce the cost of insurance.

The information gathered by the data recorders will be fed into a new European Safety Data Vault, which will be housed in Ireland. When live, the recorders will form part of a live crash information network that are intended to help improve road safety. The data recorders, or black boxes, will immediately notify emergency services when road crashes occur and provide accurate and objective information about the crashes themselves.

To get the network started, some 6,000 vehicles will be fitted with the black boxes by the vehicle management information firm Minorplanet Systems, whose customers include Securicor and Dyno-Rod. Such companies will have access to the vault once the technologies are integrated in mid-2004 and will be able to receive crash data as well as vehicle management information.

Housed at an unspecified location in Ireland, the European Safety Vault will be established by IBM and SIS, whose analytic physical technology will help improve automatic crash safety performance. SIS is creating the world’s first end-to-end network for the capture, transmission and storage of vehicle crash information. SIS is led by Dr Ricardo Martinez, a former advisor to former US president Bill Clinton on automobile and traffic safety. He believes that the development of secure, integrated crash data vaults will dramatically enhance current knowledge of crash and injury causes and provide new insights for prevention.

The aim of the joint venture is to use technology to achieve the EU’s goal of a 50pc reduction in crash-related deaths by 2010. A major priority is to use automatic call or ‘e-call’ capabilities from vehicles for immediate notification of crashes to emergency services. The EU also called for the creation of an independent, impartial data vault to help improve the understanding of the causes of crashes.

The total annual economic impact of auto crashes stands at €2bn in Ireland and has risen to more than €160bn across the EU. Every year nearly 40,000 deaths and more than 3.3 million injuries result from vehicle crashes on Europe’s roads and highways.

Martinez said: “Better decisions come from better information. Every day, people are injured in crashes, but the information surrounding these unfortunate events simply disappears. With our European and global safety data vaults, each crash now offers an opportunity to learn and work smarter as we strive to save lives.”

The initiative was welcomed by the Minister for Transport Seamus Brennan TD who said: “As we move forward, technology is making cars smarter and technology is increasingly becoming a more important part of road safety. There is great concern in Government about safety on Ireland’s roads and penalty points have helped reduce the deaths. Insurance companies are continuing to stand back from using technology to reduce insurance premiums. Any product that cuts down on the number of injuries and deaths are welcome.”

By John Kennedy