Black boxes in cars could save lives

Published November 17th, 2009 - 03:09 GMT

Aircraft-style black box recorders fitted to cars in the Middle East could dramatically improve road safety as well as help determine who is at fault in crashes, says a leading technology industry expert.

The Middle East has the world’s second highest road death rate and in the United Arab Emirates alone last year there were 1,071 deaths and 12,273 injuries – the highest single country per capita rate - according to the World Health Organisation.

“Too many people are dying or are being severely injured on the roads in the region,” said Chris Wiener, Solutions Architect at ArabIT. “Lives depend on people driving responsibility and black boxes constantly monitoring a driver’s behaviour provide a strong incentive to ensure they do so.”

The European Union is drawing up plans for recorders to be fitted to all cars following a study which found that drivers of cars fitted with black boxes are 10% less likely to be involved in a fatal accident and their repair bills fell by as much as 25%. In the UK, they are installed as standard in many emergency vehicles and in the United States black boxes are standard in more than two-thirds of new vehicles.

ArabIT is the certified service provider in the United Arab Emirates of an advanced telemetry vehicle management system produced by Telargo of the United States that is at the heart of black box technology.

The systems can be fitted at low cost behind a dashboard and connected to sensors that monitor a car’s movements. They can record every second for 180 seconds before an accident and 60 seconds after, triggered by sharp changes in speed or the inflation of an airbag. They can record several types of data including speed, direction, hard cornering, harsh braking and indicator use.

Called Data Logger, the ArabIT/Telargo system stores data on a memory card for later analysis. “This information can be used by the police and insurance companies to reconstruct the details of a crash to determine who is at fault,” said Wiener. “The system is like an independent witness constantly watching driving behaviour. With the driver aware the system is monitoring their driving style, careless and reckless driving is reduced and safety improved.”

While in the west there are privacy concerns about the use of black boxes in cars, Wiener believes that would not be a major issue in the Middle East. “The major concern in the Arabian Gulf in particular is the sheer scale of fatalities and serious injuries on the road and there would be few who would oppose a measure that could reduce this dreadful toll,” he added.

The Telargo system combines established technologies from Global Positioning System and wireless communication to digital mapping and hosted as well as mobile applications. Telargo has implemented systems for clients in Austria, Brazil, Hong Kong, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Macao, Malaysia, Mexico, Slovenia, Thailand, Turkey, and the United States as well as the UAE.

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