Vehicle Tracking Equipment – Part 2

In-Vehicle Monitoring Equipment (Telematics)

Until recently, in-vehicle monitoring equipment required a telematics device, sometimes called a black box to be retrofitted in vehicles, which was expensive due to the cost of the physical device and fitting it into the vehicle, however costs were often off-set with local vehicle insurance premiums, and was also seen as way for large transport companies to be able to get insurance that covered young drivers, or higher risk drivers, because of past offences, age or health conditions, and controlling who to blame culture.

Recently we have seen Smartphone App developments, which monitoring technology is provided as an app on a smartphone , which also helped to reduce cost because it does not require a physical device to be installed in a vehicle. As well as delivering the telematics software, apps can also deliver the feedback about the driving recorded by the software.

However, delivering the telematics function with an app requires the phone to be switched on while the vehicle is being driven, which may tempt some drivers to use it for other purposes while driving. The risk can be mitigated by making it clear to the driver that they should not use the phone while driving and making sure they understand that the monitoring technology will detect if they do so, and report this to the insurer. A driver may choose not to take the phone with them on journeys where they feel their driving may be a lower standard than normal, or to switch it on when they are being carried as a passenger in a vehicle driving by someone else, so the app would record the other person’s driving.



We are seeing a growing number of employers, perhaps mostly in vans or large vehicles, but also in cars. Employers can use the resulting data to identify management approaches to reducing risk and/or improving efficiency, such as changing schedules and routes, providing driver training, and if necessary, instigating disciplinary action.

Several studies show that in-vehicle monitoring can help employers and at-work drivers to reduce their crash rates when driving for work. Some studies have found that accident rates for vehicles fitted with a monitoring device reduced by 20%, others found a reduction of 38% in accidents and the rate of specific unsafe driving behaviours reduced by up to 82% in one case. However, the effects have varied between fleets with most showing a reduction in accident rates, but some showing a small increase in accidents.

Trials in America with in-vehicle monitoring devices fitted into ambulances found a dramatic and sustained improvement in driver performance, without any increase in response times.

Savings in vehicle maintenance costs alone more than paid for the monitoring equipment, without taking into account other cost savings, such as fewer accidents. Surveys of commercial truck and bus safety management in the USA concluded that in-vehicle monitoring technology was underused given its safety potential. A major obstacle was driver acceptance; other challenges were handling and analysing the data and ensuring the technology was not used just to focus on negative assessments and punitive actions.

A range of published case studies of the experience of various companies that have used telematics show positive results in reducing accidents, accident costs, vehicle and fuel cost and risky driving behaviours. However, these case studies have not been published in research reports and case studies may not be published.


Lets look into the in-vehicle monitoring devices more closely.

Many in-vehicle monitoring devices are essentially “black boxes” with in-built accelerometers, GPS and other features. Broadly speaking, there are two types: Journey Data Recorders and Event Data Recorders, although they may have many different names.

Event Data Recorders. Sometimes known as crash data recorders, monitor the way a vehicle is being driven throughout a journey, but only records the data when an event, for example, a collision, sharp braking, etc exceeds pre-set parameters. They typically record several seconds before, during and after the event. An analysis of the data is provided to the driver, and/or a third party, after the journey, usually by some form of website or app. Some also provide real-time visual or audible alerts to the driver during the journey.

Journey Data Recorders. Sometimes known as in-vehicle data recorders may monitor the way a vehicle is being driven, typically at 1 second intervals, throughout a journey. The data for the whole journey is recorded and an analysis is provided to the driver, and/or a third party, after the journey, usually by some form of website or app. Some also provide real-time visual or audible alerts to the driver during the journey.

The advantage of telematics for motor insurers is that it provides data to show when, where and how a vehicle is being driven. This enables the insurer to calculate the risk of an individual policyholder based on their driving, rather than on their membership of a group, for example gender or age. When an insurance claim is submitted, it also provides a more accurate picture of what actually happened in the crash, which helps the insurer to establish blame and settle claims, and to reduce fraudulent claims.


What other things might be monitored, whilst driving?

The driving behaviours that are monitored by in-vehicle telematics are behaviours that influence the likelihood of the driver crashing, for example speed, or the influence the severity of the crash, for example was the driver wearing a seat belt. There are proxies for crash and injury risk, and monitoring an individual drivers propensity to indulge in such behaviours enables the technology to calculate a risk rating for that driver. It also, potentially, enables measures to be identified that may reduce the drivers risk.

  • Journey start and finish times
  • Vehicle speed
  • Vehicle location (GPS)
  • Acceleration
  • Braking
  • Cornering
  • Seat Belt Use
  • Fuel Consumption

Some systems may also provide video or external road and traffic environment and/or inside the vehicle itself, to provide contextual details about the driving and an indication of what the driver is doing (not wearing a seat belt, or using a mobile phone).

The devices use customised algorithms to determine whether or not safety-relevant events have occurred or whether pre-set parameters have been exceeded. These algorithms are as varied as the device themselves.

The monitoring devices also vary in terms of how obvious they are to the driver, with some completely hidden from view and others positioned within the field of the view of the driver to provide them with performance feedback or warnings while they are driving.

Most monitoring systems provide feedback directly to the driver, either in the vehicle in real time while they are driving and/or retrospectively once a trip has ended, usually in some form of online report. Some of the systems also provide feedback to, or through, a third, such a parent on a line manager.

The effectiveness of this feedback can be influenced by a number of factors related to the individual driver, the organisation or third party, as well as the nature of the feedback itself. While many of the published studies show that feedback influences driver behaviour, they provide little detail on the nature of the feedback or how it influences behaviour.




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