Some of you may already be driving cars fitted with a black box, often supplied by insurance companies in exchange for a reduction in the price of the policy. This device is capable of recording all the parameters in the event of an accident, in order to understand the dynamics and establish responsibility.

And this is exactly what the compulsory black box for all new cars sold in Europe from 7 July 2024 will not do, as the European Union established several years ago. Whilst the insurance black box is an aftermarket device that records data on the car and the driver, the black box provided for in the European regulation will be built into the car and will guarantee anonymity.

What is the compulsory black box?

The technical term for it is the Event Data Recorder (EDR for short). As the official EU document explains, it is a "system whose sole purpose is to record and store critical parameters and information relating to the accident just before, during and immediately after the collision". In fact, it's a real black box, but it's very different from the one associated with insurance policies. First and foremost because of its integration with the car.

Une boîte noire d'aftermarket

The black box we are familiar with today is literally fitted to the car, whereas the one that will be compulsory from 7 July 2024 is 100% integrated into it. It is therefore neither installed nor uninstalled, and can never be deactivated. From the outset, it is an integral part of the car. 

What does it do?

The EDR records everything that happens 5 seconds before an accident and up to 300 milliseconds afterwards. The data recorded includes vehicle speed, braking, position, inclination, the activation status and intensity of all the safety systems, and the activation of eCall and ADAS. Images, sound or any other elements are not stored in the black box.

Furthermore, the information remains in the EDR and is never transmitted to the outside world via wireless connections. To access it, you need to connect to the OBD (On Board Diagnostics) port. This is a closed circuit that also guarantees anonymity. The European regulation stipulates that the data collected allows precise identification of the make, model and version, but cannot be traced back to the chassis number. The last four digits cannot be recorded or stored under any circumstances, making it impossible to identify the vehicle itself or its owner.

What is it used for?

It goes without saying that the black box, or rather the EDR, is not a device designed to punish undisciplined drivers. In fact, it is used solely for statistical purposes in accident research and analysis. The data collected may indeed be made available to the national authorities, but again solely for the purpose of collecting data. It is also used for the approval of various systems and components.