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How Smarter Cars Are Saving You Money

Motoring innovations make headlines every day, with smart roads that read traffic conditions; driverless cars; and even vehicles that will recognise when drivers are having a heart attack and contact emergency services. Few of these advances seem close to reality right now. However there are viable, realistic new technologies available at this instant which can help save you money on the road.

With car insurance prices increasing across the board, more and more drivers are turning to vehicle telematics to prove their driving skills and lower premiums. Similar to the technology used by transportation companies for fleet management, a telematics device consists of a small black box, about the size of a deck of cards, that is fitted either under the bonnet or directly on the chassis. Exactly where the box goes depends on the vehicle and the type of device, but it will always be placed out of sight and insurance providers usually fit them free of charge. It’s amazing to think that with this bit of tech, better driving can save you money. The device uses GPS locators to track movements of the vehicle and assess the driving quality, which then affects insurance premiums. Typical black box devices will track location and how long the driver has been driving without a break. They always analyse speed and cornering, as well as the smoothness of acceleration and braking.

This is excellent news for groups of drivers who are higher-risk and therefore usually have much higher insurance premiums, such as young or inexperienced drivers, or even drivers with very low annual mileage. They may be able to decrease their premiums further by not driving at certain times of day, such as rush hour or at night.

There are other benefits of using a telematics system. The black box is always placed out of sight in case the vehicle is stolen, so GPS data can be used to track the thief. This service is generally offered free of charge by insurance providers. The boxes also help companies avoid expensive bogus whiplash claims – by knowing how fast the vehicle was travelling at the time they can prove that an accident was really only a small bump.

Interestingly, the technology itself can lead to fewer accidents. Knowing that they are being analysed means many drivers choose to drive more carefully, and some telematics systems will beep when a vehicle brakes too harshly or drives too fast. By making drivers aware of when they are driving dangerously, a telematics system can change driving habits for the better. Systems can also offer drivers personalised digital driver records, which can be used to record accurate mileages or work out fuel efficiency.

What about the issue of privacy? Some people enjoy their car standing out from the crowd, and customise the paint job and order private registration plates. Others worry about being tagged Big Brother-style, and hate the idea of their position being tracked. Some companies offer telematics systems which do not track location at all, or are only installed for six months to give the provider enough data to offer a permanent discount. The market for these systems is growing fast. Practical and available now, telematics technology offers a real way to save money through better driving.