Up until now, the black box has been restricted to airplanes and race cars. Increasingly, though, the technology will be finding its way into road collision investigations.
The use of black boxes has been a important advance in most racing circles, improving the understanding of crash dynamics and leading to improvements in driver safety. Even NASCAR, which has prided itself on keeping its race cars low tech, has this year recognized the value of analyzing crashes before instituting design changes, to reduce the number of serious injuries and fatalities currently dogging its brand of motorsport.
The world of everyday vehicle collisions is much different, but an increasing cross-section of vehicles is being equipped with data acquisition that can help insurers and vehicle manufacturers understand the circumstances of crashes.
According to estimates, 13-15% of all private passenger vehicles (including pickup trucks, vans and SUVs) will have retrievable black box data by year-end 2001.
One company currently working on harvesting the data is Injury Sciences LLC, based in San Antonio, Tex.
That company announced in October that it was launching a service to retrieve the data from vehicles after a collision as part of its WrExpert claims analysis system.
Using the system, data can be retrieved from most GM vehicles manufactured since 1996. By year-end 2001, the service is scheduled to be capable of harvesting black box data from GM vehicles dating back to 1994, and several late model Fords.
Data is retrieved using the Crash Data Retrieval system developed by Vetronix, a company known best in the vehicle diagnostics arena. The companies signed an agreement to develop the retrieval system in September 2000.
The Vetronix Crash Data Retrieval (CDR) system consists of hardware and software that downloads pre- and post-crash data from the vehicle’s airbag module (SDM) to a laptop computer. The Windows-based CDR software presents this data in easy-to-read graphs and tables.
Data includes the speed of the vehicle five seconds prior to impact, throttle position, seatbelt usage, engine speed, braking status, and several airbag-related parameters.
Near-term uses of black box data will largely benefit individual claim evaluations by identifying opportunistic fraud, such as whether claimed injuries are consistent with crash data.
Long-term benefits, according to the company, include data that will affect insurance pricing and underwriting departments as well as collision repair management.
Collision Group Kicks Off With a Bang
An amalgamated group of Ontario collision repair trade associations kicked off its existence with a meeting that attracted more than 850 industry personnel.
The Collision Industry Action Group’s event, in Mississauga, Ont., highlighted its creation from the combination of the Hamilton District Autobody Repair Association, the Peel Vehicle Repair Association, and the Toronto Collision Repair Society. Four major issues will be the target of most activities:
Encouraging the establishment of the Collision Industry Standards Council of Ontario (CISCO) and the self-managed shop accreditation program.
Promoting shop profitability–getting paid for the work done.
Attracting young people to consider collision repair as a career with a good future.
Addressing marketplace issues such as unlicensed shops and “bandit” towing.