And the boxes aren’t the only devices that incorporate artificial intelligence as an aid to monitor and control a young driver’s behaviour.
Insurance firm Aviva has launched a new pay-how-you-drive smartphone app which could offer drivers savings on their car insurance premiums, based on how they drive.
Motoring journalist Paul Horrell says the devices are part of a wider trend that is seeing insurers and manufacturers try to incentivise or coerce young drivers into being more careful.
He cites a Ford product in the US called MyKey, which allows a master key to set various limits – such as maximum speed or audio – on the vehicle.
Volvo’s Alcoguard monitors alcohol levels. It will not start until a driver has blown into a unit, which transmits the results via radio signal to the car’s electronic control system. If a blood-alcohol limit of 0.2g/l is exceeded, the engine will not start.
And DriveCam, which was developed to help organisations with fleets of drivers, like haulage companies, monitor their drivers’ performances, uses a system which relies on two cameras – one pointing at the road, and one monitoring the driver – to record instances of bad driving such as texting or tailgating.
So might everyone soon have a little black box, or something similar, in their car?
Horrell says it is often parents that are particularly attracted to devices such as little black boxes. But he thinks it is unlikely that everyone will subscribe to such surveillance.
We are definitely going to have more behaviour-based motor insurance in the future”
“If people are willing to submit to this kind of observation, they are probably the kind of people who are willing to behave more responsibly.”
Graeme Trudgill, head of corporate affairs at Biba, says although he expects to see a significant increase in the number of little black boxes in the young driver market over the next couple of years, it would not be economical for all insurance companies, and all age groups, to go down this route.
In many ways the future depends on technology, he says, as it depends on what happens with smartphone apps such as Aviva’s, which are cheaper than having a box fitted. And in the next couple of years, vehicle manufacturers are also going to be required to install emergency call buttons, which will transmit GPS signals and have the potential to use telematics.
“What is clear is that we are definitely going to have more behaviour-based motor insurance in the future – and young drivers are going to still be the primary market,” he says.
Adeola Ajayi, from the Association of British Insurers, says riskier or more dangerous drivers are likely to be the ones who are the most resistant.
She thinks there will be a spike in the number of young female drivers opting for a black box after 21 December, when an EU ruling which bans insurers from taking gender into account when setting premiums comes into effect.
“Female drivers, who are statistically safer, have benefited from cheaper insurance in the past, so these might prove popular with them.
“Others are simply keen to do whatever they can to get a premium that reflects their exact risk, and this is a way of getting more insight and rewarding customers,” she says.