Neil Turner's Blog

Blogging about technology and randomness since 2002

Adventures with a black box

The black box in my car

There’s currently a small, circular black box in my car.

It’s a piece of electrical equipment that my car insurance company (Diamond, part of Admiral Insurance) sent to me, that connects to the 12-volt cigarette lighter port on the console. I’m to keep it plugged in while I drive for the next three months, and then return it.

The device will record how I drive, presumably using accelerometers, to make an assessment as to how risky of a driver I am. If I drive safely, breaking slowly and softly and not accelerating hard, and avoid driving too much at night, then I should get around 20% knocked off my insurance premiums when I come to renew in the autumn. And as I’ve been a fully qualified driver for less than a year, a 20% discount equates to quite a big saving – about £150 based on this year’s premium.

The box was sent to me free of charge, and, provided I return it on time, it won’t have cost me anything. The only risk is that if my insurance company thinks I’m a careless driver, that my premiums could go up instead (only around 80% of customers experience a reduction in premiums). But I think I’m a reasonably good driver – I tend to value fuel economy over speed – and I only brake hard if I have to.

For young drivers, so-called ‘telematics’ insurance policies are increasingly popular as they’re sometimes the only way that teenagers can afford to drive. InsureTheBox is one such firm – their black box is professionally fitted (presumably taking data from the car’s ODB2 port), but comes with additional benefits. A driver who was left unconscious following an accident was saved because his insurance company notified the emergency services.

For now, I’m just using this little black box for three months. It comes with a USB port, which is handy as I had to unplug my existing car USB adaptor to be able to use it. Also, it’s currently stuck to my car using gaffer tape as the provided sticky pads did not want to stick to the bumpy plastic panels of my Nissan. It fell off literally seconds after I took the photo above.

My car insurance renewal is in September so we’ll see what effect this has nearer the time.

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