‘Fit and forget’ box helps drivers reduce their fuel consumption
An innovative black box for cars that will help drivers save fuel and improve safety has been developed by Skalene Technologies. Using a simple ‘mood light’ to indicate how efficiently the car is being driven coupled with the ability to store up to a year’s worth of driving data, the sophisticated device has the potential to improve driver performance. The device records 30 parameters – such as speed, fuel level, air bag status, number of revs and the motion of the car – one hundred times every a second. This information is made available to the driver in real time in a simple and meaningful way.
Julian White, co-founder of Skalene Technologies, says: “Research by a large oil company on the driving habits of mini-cab drivers has shown that an average driver could increase miles per gallon by 27% through more efficient driving. Our device means the driver can easily and immediately see their fuel efficiency.
“The black box is designed to be low-cost and can be fitted by any driver as it simply plugs into the data point near the steering wheel. This gives insurance companies, who want to offer lower premiums to careful drivers, the potential to post the black box to their customers. The box is intelligent enough to show if it has been tampered with and display the details of the car in which it has been used.”
The box immediately begins to provide feedback to the driver, allowing him or her to realise fuel savings on the spot. The data storage feature can store 12 months of data on the standard memory card used in most digital cameras. Whenever the car is parked within range of a suitable WiFi access point, the built-in wireless interface allows easy access to the data via the internet.
The idea for the black box came when Skalene participated in a project funded by the Technology Strategy Board to develop a low cost, next-generation vehicle monitor. The box contains 3D motion sensors to monitor acceleration and rotation, giving measures of how a car is driven: how quickly the driver accelerates, brakes and even how sharply corners are taken.
The colour of the mood light is determined by combining data from the car such as engine revs, speed, etc, with output of the motion sensors. Various schemes are possible, but the most common will be a summary of driving quality over the previous few seconds. A red display will be reserved for the most extreme situations.
In addition, the box creates the potential for insurance companies to score customers based on their driving habits – similar to the way mobile phone companies offer different tariffs. Customers can reduce their premiums through careful driving, and the box provides unequivocal evidence of this.
Skalene’s black box is powered directly from the car so doesn’t use up a lighter socket. If the vehicle is in a crash, the box will continue to collect data for a few seconds after the power fails. This can be invaluable in determining what happened during the impact. Using the data stored on the card it would be possible for an insurance company or accident investigator to simply download the data and verify claims over speed and direction of travel.
The black box is equally applicable to lorries, taxis and buses creating early warning of dangerous driving which could save lives.
Julian explains that the black box incentivises careful driving:
“Drivers will be able to improve their efficiency and safety. This will not only mean lower fuel costs but also they could be rewarded by lower insurance premiums, as these will be based on their performance not just an average for drivers of their age.”
Written by Victoria Ellis