Will a Black Box for Your Car Attract “Spies”?
The idea of a device tracking you while you drive seems like a concept straight out of a spy movie. Black boxes are no longer reserved for jetliners. Of course, that doesn’t offer too much comfort if you’re a skeptic or full-out conspiracy theorist, does it now?
It’s natural to ask whether a black box for your car is helpful or harmful. After all, we live in an era where privacy concerns linger in everyone’s mind, especially with all of these news reports about security breaches.
Remember, though, that there are two sides to any topic. And if you need some reassurance that black boxes aren’t a means of sending secret agents after you, read on. You’ll see that the same people who you think are out to get you, can actually help you. You will also learn something startling about the use of this technology in cars.
If a friend or family member says you’re paranoid about the issue, don’t feel bad, you’re not alone. You’re one of many who think black boxes have a sinister purpose.
In the U.K., where telematic insurance has gained popularity, a survey revealed that 1 in 3 drivers see a car black box as a tool insurers use just to spy on drivers and raise their premiums. In that same study, 89% of younger drivers said they didn’t want a black box because they didn’t like the idea of getting tracked.
The same study revealed there’s a lot of misinformation about black boxes in general. For example, 12% of those surveyed believed that black box data ends up in the hands of the police. Additionally, 30% of participants think the insurers will take driver data and share it with other providers, while 27% of those surveyed think swerving or hard-braking will affect their premiums.
So as you can see, it’s not just you. Whether it’s due to a lack of education or propaganda (or most likely, a bit of both), a significant number of drivers share the same sentiments you have for telematic insurance.
But these are all misunderstandings…
What Experts Say About a Black Box in Cars
Insurers and telematics enthusiasts want you and all the skeptics to know the truth: the main purpose of a black box is to help you, not spy on you.
Think of a similar piece of technology – OnStar. A collision will activate this life-saving service, alerting a central call centre who will locate the vehicle and send the paramedics even if the passengers are unconscious. Countless lives have been saved because of it.
But for OnStar to work, it must find you, and that means it must track you. It’s a safe bet that those who have survived major collisions as a result of OnStar probably have no complaints about getting tracked.
Granted, the urgency of a black box doesn’t rival OnStar, but still, it’s benefits outweigh the perceived lack of privacy. But it’s hard to convince people about these devices due to all the myths out there. Perhaps, we should debunk some of them to let you know what’s really up.
Thinking Out of the Box
If you’ve read an online discussion or had a conversation about telematics, you might have heard someone voice what they think is true about this technology. But the U.K. based telematic insurance company, Admiral, debunked a few myths regarding their own black box policies, which gives an insight as to how this industry really works.
Don’t believe the following
- Admiral will use the data to fine people who have underestimated their mileage – If there’s a difference, the company will amend the mileage and reimburse drivers. No fines will get added.
- Companies use telematics data to hike up insurance premiums for drivers who brake heavily – Although repeated hard braking may impact your overall driving score, your price won’t increase during your policy.
- If you’re involved in an accident we’ll use the data to prove you were to blame – They don’t use black boxes against you. However, you can use it to prove yourself innocent in a not-at-fault accident.
- Admiral will pass the data onto other insurance companies to penalise drivers at renewal – Personal data stays with the company, no one else.
- Admiral uses telematics to track where you drive – Since the concern is with how you drive (not where), the black box doesn’t track you in real-time. It only records your habits.
- We monitor your driving habits to increase your premium – They are not actively looking to raise your premium. If you’re consistently getting low scores, then yes, you may see an increase. However, they reward drivers with good habits and give feedback on how to drive safer and get a discount.
- It will soon be compulsory to have a black box in your car if you want an Admiral policy – Federal law will dictate what’s mandatory, but the company itself has no intention of making their black boxes a standard.
- Insurance companies monitor your driving and then inform the police if you were speeding – They won’t share your data with cops unless the police make a request about a criminal offense.
- You’re subject to a curfew and penalised if you drive at certain times – There are no curfews. You may pay a slightly higher premium if you always drive at night (since the late hours are riskier), but you’re free to drive at whatever time you please.
- Telematics interfere with your car and will turn down your radio – There is no interference of any sort.
- Having a black box fitted will void your car’s warranty – Technically, this could be true. In the U.K., the black box gets installed behind the dash, having no effect on warranty. In North America, however, it may get plugged into the diagnostics port, which could void the warranty.
- The black box is big and everyone will know I have one – This can vary from company to company but Admiral, and presumably other providers, offer small units that can fit in your palm. When installed behind the dash, no can see it.
- You have no idea how well you’re driving – Logging into your online dashboard will show your driving stats, which in effect will reveal your driving performance. Again, this service may vary from company to company.
- A black box will be distracting when you’re driving – Considering the fact that the black box is hidden, you have nothing to worry about in the way of distraction.
- You can’t drive until the black box is fitted – You receive immediate coverage once approved for black box insurance, so you don’t have to wait for installation.
- You don’t know what happens to your data after your policy finishes – Your data is only used to customize your premium in the future. If you cancel, the company may also use your info to improve their product/service offerings, but they couldn’t identify you at that point.
Keep in mind, that these are Admiral’s standards. However, it’s likely the case for just about all insurance companies that put black boxes into cars.
The Virtues of Having a Black Box in Your Car
In this era of hacking and tracking, it’s easy to feel a bit paranoid about anything that can follow or see us when we’re alone. The idea of a “spy tool” in your car probably doesn’t help. But as we alluded to earlier, the benefits of having the black box certainly make them worthwhile.
Undisputable Benefits of a Car Black Box
- Premium is never fixed – A black box for your car ensures that you only pay for usage, which means your rates can change from month to month based on your driving habits.
- Good behaviour=better rates – If you avoid speeding, reckless driving, or travelling too often, your rates may drop and stay low, assuming you maintain safe practices on the road.
- It’s a money saver – When your rates drop, the greatest benefit of course is more money in your pockets.
- Useful in accident claims – If you get into an accident, a black box’s readings can prove you as innocent in a not-at-fault accident. It’s much better than relying on eye-witnesses or your own testimony.
- Useful for theft recovery – We hope you never experience a car theft, but thanks to the tracking technology of a car black box, authorities can locate a stolen vehicle.
A Plot Twist
Now there’s something many of you don’t know already, and we wanted to save it for now. If you bought a newer car from a dealership, your vehicle more than likely has a black box installed.
According to stats pulled from 2014, 96% of new cars contain an event data recorder (EDR), the formal name for a black box. That number has probably gone up since. So, this technology is not as new or rare as you may think. The purpose of these devices are to keep info logs of what’s happening in your vehicle, including average speed, whether you use a seatbelt or not and brake function.
Police officers and lawyers can use this data if an accident occurs. However, they DO NOT track your location or transmit information real-time like what you’d see in an action flick.
With that said, whether you get a black box for your car for insurance or not, you already have one which records your driving activity. The only difference between a black box for insurance and an EDR already placed in your, is that the former can actually save you money.
All Eyes on You?
With everything said so far about black boxes in your car, do you still feel like your privacy will go out the window? All we can tell you is not to worry too much. A telematic insurer is not out to punish you – they’ll simply give you a discount if you drive carefully.
And as we’ve mentioned throughout the post, the benefits outweigh the one perceived a lack of privacy. Technically speaking, the info a black box can be used against you – pretty much like how an email or text message can serve as evidence if you did something criminal.
But our assumption is that you’re a good driver (and a good citizen), and that you’re not doing anything you’re not supposed to. And if that’s true, then it’s fair to say that a little “spybox” will have no negative effect on your life whatsoever.