Road safety: a black box in our cars


L ‘Electronics are slipping into modern cars everywhere, whose software can already be talkative in the hands of experts. But it will be even easier with the black box, whose principle, which was adopted by the European Parliament in 2019 as part of provisions to improve road safety, is coming to an end. The measure, which applies to new cars circulating in Europe, entered into force on 1uh May 2022.

All new cars are now equipped with this device, which records a certain amount of driving data. Initially, those who precede an accident or a 30-second collision will be recorded. Thus, the speed, acceleration or deceleration, the use of the seat belt or even the GPS coordinates, the collision force and the engine speed will be stored in the phase prior to the accident.

On the model of the black boxes of aircraft, which in theory make it possible to shed light on the circumstances of air disasters, their car counterparts could, much more simply – at least in the beginning – help to shed light on the real circumstances of disasters. ‘ an accident. And no doubt putting excessive speed back in its proper place, all too easily waving so far as the explanation for any accident.

For meand Vincent Julé-Parade, a lawyer specializing in personal injury and in the defense of traffic victims, such a device will make it possible to make drivers responsible, aware that a Big Brother monitors their actions, but also to speed up compensation to victims of traffic accidents.

For him, the systematic fitting of private vehicles with a black box is a measure that will help better track risky behaviors and driving errors at the cause of an accident. The presence of black boxes will undoubtedly make it possible to avoid endless debates about the exact circumstances of an accident, sometimes based on a paralysis of the compensation process for the victim ”.

The example of air strife

An idealized vision of litigation because air transport has shown that despite the sophistication of flight data records, their divergent interpretation of experts most often exposes them to endless legal and technical battles. The crash of Rio de Janeiro-Paris, which took place 13 years ago, has still not known its epilogue, and the company as the manufacturer of the plane, summoned to trial by the families of the passengers, will not appear until October 10 and until December of this year.

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We must therefore be careful not to say that the electronics and sensors will be able to quickly tell the truth in all disasters. An argument also raised by user associations that rightly fear an improper appropriation of the black box mission over time. Who can say that data is only analyzed in case of an accident? A police requisition during, for example, an ongoing investigation could give the investigators access to the registered data.

And it can start with an interception in the absence of radar, as the footage on board makes it possible to identify the speed at which the driver was practicing just before. It will still be necessary to specify whether this data is self-erasing over time, or whether a buffer memory – or even a recording on the networks by combined GSM and GPS – can be consulted long after the events on the servers.

There is therefore grain to grind for the CNIL (National Commission for Computing and Liberties) with this European initiative, which is nevertheless based on a pious wish. First and foremost, it’s a matter of making drivers responsible for their actions and gestures, as they feel permanently tracked by their black box. To escape it, there will definitely be jammers or neutralizers offered by dark web hackers who will be within reach of small computer geniuses with an isolated black box.

This will be much less the case with the Renault solution, which intends to dispense with it and use the various electronic elements scattered on board its vehicles to gather the necessary information. Undoubtedly almost inviolable, according to the manufacturer, this system will not represent any additional cost to the customer, who will have to support, with the classic black box, an investment of one hundred euros. This sum will again be paid by used cars from 2024 when they change hands. In other words, it is a very strong incentive to buy or keep a “pre-car”, which will not help to rejuvenate the French car fleet.

Holy bread for insurance companies

Those who are likely to benefit from this are the insurance companies, which expect a 20% reduction in claims, and that as a result some are already considering asking to pay for part of the equipment. But they are already used to playing with many difficult issues and technology at the moment, instead of clarifying things, on the contrary, they risk making them more complex by neglecting major judging criteria. If the driver at the time was using the telephone, if he was under the influence of alcohol, drugs or narcotics, for example, which is not insignificant.

“If, in the event of a collision, this device makes it possible to determine whether the motorist was driving too fast, flashing his seat or not using the seat belt, he is not able to know the cause of an accident, whether it is connected to the scene. , the weather or the risky behavior of a third party: priority cut off, an unresponsive stop sign, too high speed … Filming the road would allow, in this case, to recontextualize to determine the exact circumstances of an accident thanks to an objective witness, says Pascal Chevalier, European sales manager for Nextbase, the market leader in built-in cameras.

And no doubt, in order to justify his good faith in front of the black box, it will be necessary to produce the images of such a camera that visually testifies to the circumstances of the accident. Listed as a miracle solution, the black box will disturb the sensitivity of some, as they consider themselves already overly hunted in all their actions. Free will is not well thought out when it comes to road safety, and it has long been the state that decides what is good for us. More than ever, the only way to escape it would be to drive in an old car, certainly full of sensations, but less safe and more polluting.


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