With the launch of the CI Connexion, Citroen claims it is the first carmaker to offer an active black box as standard in order to lower insurance costs for UK drivers and collect driving data.
A contentious issue and an area that insurance companies are more than keen to explore, ‘black boxes' can be programmed to collect a host of driving data from a car's position to its speed, cornering force, break pressure and steering. Put forward as an effective and elegant solution for accident reduction, crime scene evidence collection and ultimately lowering drivers' insurance premiums, in December, the White House Office of Management approved a request from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to mandate "black boxes" on 100% of new vehicles sold in the US from 2013. However, while the boxes will feature in all new cars sold, they will not be active and as of yet, no legislation has been created regarding either which data will be collected or for what said data will be used for.
The UK has the highest car insurance premiums in the EU, and in the 1990s Citroen was one of the first car companies to offer British drivers a year's free insurance on selected models. As a result, when its small Saxo supermini launched in 1996, it became an instant hit with teens and young adults who would have otherwise had no way of affording a car as their insurance premiums would have been higher than the car's retail price. The Saxo also became a favorite within the car modification community and soon a thriving industry built up around the car, supplying spoilers, engine and exhaust tuning kits and other after-market accessories. Both of these trends continued when Cirtoen launched the Saxo's replacement, the C2 in 2003.
With the C2's little brother, the even more diminutive C1, Citroen claims it is "creatively turning to technology to reduce the cost of younger buyers owning and insuring a brand new car by fitting its C1 Connexion special edition with a telematics ‘black box' as standard." The device will enable the car company to offer free insurance for one year to any UK driver aged 19 or older. The cost of renewing the insurance premium for owners at the end of this first 12 months will be based on the data gathered by the black box.
Away from the UK, in other counties, such as Russia, black boxes are nothing new and are used in conjunction with a dashboard camera to record spurious insurance claims made by and against the driver. According to the World Health Organization, in 2009 alone, Russia had 35,972 traffic-related deaths.
The proliferation of such devices is why so much of the footage that emerged of the meteor shower that hit the Chelyabinsk region on February 15, that injured approximately 900 people, was captured by cars driving through the region.