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Black boxes now in all new cars in France; what data do they collect?

These devices can be used to help explain what happened in the case of an accident

All new cars entering circulation in Europe now have to contain a black box Pic: Gubin Yury / Shutterstock

All new cars entering circulation in France and across Europe must since May 1 contain black boxes, which help to provide information in the case of a road accident. 

Black boxes identify details of the car’s speed, acceleration, braking, steering angles, airbag deployment and even seat belt use. The information collected only concerns the mechanical aspects of the car’s performance, and does not include audio recordings. 

However, these boxes “do not save any personal data” as everything that is recorded “concerns the movements of the vehicle,” Anne Lavaud of the Prévention Routière road safety organisation told Franceinfo.

Ms Lavaud added that with black boxes in cars the police and judicial authorities will be able to study the 30 seconds before and the 10 seconds following the incident to more easily determine who was responsible and how it happened.

“Every 40 seconds the data recorded is deleted. [So] you can see that it does not save any personal information.” 

Data relating to accidents will be used by police investigations, in the courts and collected by road and car safety research bodies. 

However, “for an association like ours,” Ms Lavaud added, “these 30 seconds preceding the accident are not sufficient and as we do not have any contextual information we do not know where the vehicle was, the weather conditions, the type of road, or what the driver’s [general] behaviour was like. 

“If we had GPS data we would know more about the network where they were driving. But as we do not have this information, the details will not help us at all.” 

Ms Lavaud is therefore doubtful that black boxes will serve to reduce the number of accidents which occur, but “perhaps it will enable manufacturers to improve safety mechanisms inside the vehicle.”

The black box requirement comes as a result of a road safety law voted in by the European Parliament in 2019.

The French government states that it will be extended from new cars to all cars in 2024. 

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