Insurance firms ready to test 'black box' vehicle transmitter

How fast is a car traveling? Are all the passengers wearing seat belts? Has the driver activated his car's fog lights in misty conditions?

Insurance companies could be using detailed information of this kind in the near future to facilitate an individual calculation and constant adjustment of a car driver's premium.

All that is needed is a small, inexpensive data storage device -- a so-called "black box" -- which is fitted inside the car, as well as access to a cell phone network. That data can be regularly transmitted via telephone and analyzed by a central computer.

This telematics solution was created and developed by US computer giant IBM and the Canadian component manufacturer Celestica. It is now ready for production. The UK's largest car insurer, Norwich Union, will test the technology in a number of pilot trials in the near future. The American Transit Insurance Company (ATIC) is planning a similar test scheme in New York. The black box, costs 500 euros, is going to be installed in taxis and rental cars that are insured with ATIC.

Erich Nickel, who is in charge of global telematics business at IBM, is hoping that the intelligent data recorder will have a positive influence on traffic safety. Some commercial vehicle manufacturers have already signaled their interest in offering the system as a standard production feature.

Tags: Automakers

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