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Motorists don’t trust β€˜black box’ tech to prove if they are safe drivers or not

Majority of drivers would only choose such a policy in order to save money, rather than improve safety

Words ByWhat Car? team

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Black box telematics

Nearly seven in 10 drivers don’t trust β€˜black box’ technology to lower their insurance premiums by proving they are a better driver, according to research by Whatcar.com.

Telematics-based insurance policies monitor driving standards by accessing the data produced by a car either by fitting an electronic device inside the car or via a smartphone app. The policies are increasingly being aimed at young, new drivers, with insurance firms rewarding good driving with policy discounts.

However, while improving road safety is the main aim of the new policies, Whatcar.com’s study found the only reason the vast majority of drivers (89%) would use telematics insurance is to save cash, while fewer than two in five (39%) would choose to use it at all.

As well as fearing the β€˜Big Brother’ element of having their driving constantly monitored, 67% of motorists said they wouldn’t trust a telematics device to prove they were a good driver.

Paul O’Dowd, head of sales for telematics provider In-Car Cleverness, said mistrust in telematics-based insurance policies may be justified because insurance companies predominantly use hard-wired telematics systems that rely solely on GPS-based data, as opposed to on-board diagnostics (OBD) systems which take data directly from the car.

The scoring systems used also don’t take into account advanced driving methods, as well as other pertinent factors like weather and road conditions, meaning the results can be inaccurate.

He said: β€œThe GPS-based systems that many insurance companies currently use are flawed. The scoring mechanisms do not take into account scenarios that keep a driver safe in the event of a near miss, or advanced driving methods. If all insurers used OBD telematics devices, which capture data readings directly from the vehicle, false data would be significantly reduced.”

Whatcar.com’s editorial director, Jim Holder, said: β€œBlack boxes do encourage safer driving up to a point, but it is also fair to say that it’s often the safest young drivers who choose to have telematics in their car – they would be safe drivers anyway.

β€œAnd, while it works to save money for some drivers, it’s important to remember that premiums can go up as well as down based on feedback from the telematics.”

A study of the telematics insurance products currently on the market is provided in the current issue of What Car? magazine, which is on sale now, as well as an assessment of the technology.

While savings on insurance premiums can be made, especially by new drivers, the study also found that some drivers – such as more experienced drivers with a full no-claims bonus – will almost certainly be better off with a conventional insurance policy.

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