Law must be updated to provide increased access to in-vehicle data recorders, say safety experts

Road crash investigation experts have called for the law to be changed to provide increased access to information contained within in-vehicle event data recorders (EDRs).

The technology is fitted to most new vehicles and is typically used to record information about road traffic collisions. EDR data helps provide accurate and reliable information of the actions taken by drivers in the pre-collision phase.

However, in the UK and the European Union, the accessibility of EDR data is restricted due to a lack of up-to-date legislation, according to TRL, the global centre for innovation in transport

Currently, motor manufacturers are not required to provide authorities, road safety researchers or vehicle owners with EDR data. But, TRL says legislation governing the accessibility of vehicle EDR evidence must be changed to improve safety, reduce costs, speed up legal proceedings and save lives. It wants EDR collision data to be made available to the police, insurers, the courts and road safety researchers.

Fleet Service GB already provides customers using its Achieve Driver Management, which pro-actively measures a driver’s performance, with a wide range of data designed to improve occupational road safety and simultaneously reduce employers’ risk exposure. Any move to make EDR data more accessible would further aid that programme with information potentially fed into the solution.

What’s more, TRL argues, that EDR data will become even more important in a connected and automated future as systems grow increasingly complex. Indeed, TRL is the lead participant in the Government-backed Greenwich-based driverless vehicle project.

As driverless vehicles advance from semi to fully automated over the next decade or so, it will be vital to understand the data of in-vehicle safety systems and what the vehicle or a safety driver was doing prior to a collision, according to TRL.

Essentially, EDRs, which were introduced in the 1970s, are the equivalent of a black box that records a range of data from safety systems fitted to a vehicle in the seconds before, during and after a collision. That information can include indicated vehicle speed, engine revs, engine throttle performance and accelerator and brake pedal use.

The retrieved data can prove helpful, according to TRL, in being able to verify or dismiss driver accounts, as well as confirming the operating conditions of a vehicle immediately prior to a collision.

Dean Beaumont, accident reconstruction consultant for TRL’s expert witness team, explained: “Physical evidence and CCTV footage is vital in the reconstruction of road traffic collisions. However, EDRs provide important information about the movements of a vehicle before, during and after a collision event that, in many cases, could not be obtained from any other source.

“When analysed by a suitably qualified expert, EDR data allows for a detailed and more accurate investigation into road traffic collisions, specifically in regard to causation and liability. The advantage of EDRs are that they are already installed in the car; it is simply a case of being able to access the data.

“In the UK and European Union, manufacturers are slowly allowing access to this data, but this only applies to a very small number of vehicles. Sharing of EDR data should not be placed above lives in serious and fatal collisions. For example, the United States is far ahead of other regions when it comes to EDRs, as the data is regulated and access is also governed by legislation.”

He continued: “Technology is advancing at an unprecedented rate and UK and European Union legislation must not fall behind. Regulating the access of EDR data in the automotive industry will help advance collision reconstruction and the industry’s understanding of vehicle design and safety to that of the aviation industry. The United States model of EDR data regulation is already showing how useful this information can be.”

The TRL expert witness team offer a wide range of services within incident investigation; ranging from an initial desktop review on liability to in-depth collision reconstruction of single or multi-vehicle incidents, as well as numerous specialist services, including CCTV analysis, laser scanning, vehicle telematics and diagnostics and seat belt and helmet analysis.

Public and private sector clients include solicitors, police and government bodies in both criminal and civil proceedings.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *