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Collision Handshake Recorder

No more hit-and-runs!
  [vote for,

Forget this whole black-boxes-for-cars bit. Let's install a white box in every car that contains an accelerometer, a radio transceiver and a recorder. But it only knows how to do one thing. When there's a crash, it sends out a radio burst containing your insurance contact information. At the same time it listens for and records similar bursts coming from other cars. So when someone smacks into you, your cars automatically exchange insurance information.

This works even if your car is parked. If you come back to your car to find it damaged, you'll know that you have a record of who did it. If you're involved in a minor accident on the freeway, you don't have to stop to exchange information and block traffic. If you're concerned that the other car hit you deliberately as a prelude to a carjacking, you don't have to stop.

This sidesteps privacy concerns by not recording anything about your driving or actions. The only information it contains is your license plate number and who your insurance agent is.

Here are some inherent problems: 1) It's only effective if everyone has one-- but even if only 20% of cars are so equipped it can come in handy (give it an LED that lights up if anything is actually recorded). 2) It can be hacked to transmit misleading or useless data. "Hi. You think you're getting my insurance information right now, but PPHBPBPBPTTT!!!" 3) Fifth Amendment concerns-- one might consider it self-incrimination, although all you're admitting to is that you were involved in a collision, not that you were the cause of it. 4) The Red Light Camera issue-- there's no proof it was you in the car when it collided. But then, my brother was in an accident once and told the other guy he was me, so that's an exisiting problem anyway.

But on the other hand, I can't right now think of any possible abuses, and it should be cheap. It doesn't solve any problem fully, but could be convenient.

ejs, May 16 2001


       I thought I adequately modified the drive-data-recorder idea so that it would only save the data for 30 minutes or whatever before and after an accident or any other event the driver wanted.
centauri, May 16 2001

       An uncle of mine driving a very large crewcab pickup was nearly killed when slammed into by illegal aliens driving a mid 60s 'battleship' at a high rate of speed through a stoplight - they then ran from vehicle, and were apprehended weeks later. Needless to say, they were uninsured. How do you plan on installing these in every single vehicle in whatever country/ continent/ planet? How do you plan on 'fingerprinting/ pointing' the actual driver(s) involved? Why is it paramount that Insurance be the key factor, (again - establishing identity of drivers, etc.?- and even then - massive database). Wouldn't that give Insurance Companies and/or State/Federal/Local Agencies another fee, tax or surcharge?
thumbwax, May 17 2001

       UnaBubba: this individual annotated Drive Data Recorders and cited privacy as one of the big problems.
centauri, May 17 2001

       Centauri: Yes, but a lot of people are concerned that the information that they've been cruising up Interstate 5 at 110 mph for the last half-hour before their accident might fall into the wrong hands.   

       Thumbwax: You're absolutely right, the CHR would not have helped in your uncle's situation. It has a more limited use than that. I have no intention of installing these on every vehicle on the planet. It should be any person's choice to have one or not. But like a telephone, as more people get them, they will become more useful.   

       You can't pinpoint the actual driver, but you should have some idea who's driving your car. When you get the call from the insurance agent to discuss the accident your car had while you were out of town, you'll probably know who was driving it. Work it out with them.   

       Insurance is the key factor because that's how you deal with collisions in this modern world. There is no massive database involved. It's purely between you and the person you hit. It's for your own convenience. The insurance company is not alerted by the CHR. You still make that call yourself. There is no involvement by the insurance companies that would warrant them charging for anything. This might even reduce insurance fraud or cut down on investigations, inspiring insurance companies to lower the rates for people driving CHR-equipped cars.   

       This is not a top-down plan to prevent chicanery. This is just a way to exchange the information on your insurance card automatically. Like I said, it's just a convenience. (Okay, the "No more hit-and-runs!" subhead was a little overreaching.)
ejs, May 17 2001

       Yay for ejs! After all this nonsense about toilets and religion, here's a decent idea! In my bit of the country it's mandatory to stop after any accident and exchange information with the other party, so a technologically-enabled info swap doesn't seem like a big invasion of privacy--one could argue that just as it is not legal to obscure your vehicle's license plate (or licence plate, Brits) then it should not be legal to hide the identity of your vehicle as transmitted by your CHR.   

       Notice also that the CHR cannot record the identity of the driver of a vehicle, and makes it less likely that a ban on self-incrimination would extend to this device. Croissant.
Dog Ed, May 17 2001

       As a first step towards this, I thought (independently, earlier) how nice it would be if my car insurance provider printed up a small stack of business cards for me that contain precisely the information I need to give out in case of an accident. If everybody had these, we could just exchange them and be reasonably sure that we get all the required information, instead of darting around confused and exchanging fragments with bad handwriting. (I _never_ get these things right after an accident.)   

       I could print them up for myself, but I'm afraid that it'll make me look like a professional collisionist.
jutta, May 17 2001

       Jeez, ejs, I thought your whole thing about privacy is that you didn't want people to have to reveal that they'd been on their way home from a particular political rally, or a particular religious institution, or their psychiatrist's office. If you've been breaking the speed limit for no very good reason then that's exactly the sort of information I want to know when you ram me. But anyway, yes getting the insurance info would be good. I presume the devices don't record unless they sense they're involved, otherwise any other nearby cars will also get this information.
centauri, May 17 2001

       Centauri, it's not really _my_ thing about privacy, so much as a general privacy issue, which people are really selective about anyway. ("Use my credit card on the internet? Never! Read the number over a cordless phone to a perfect stranger? Oh, okay.")   

       But my extreme example is just one possibility and the examples you give all also apply. If I was in an accident I don't need the cops to know I just came from the Roxy theater on transvestite night. Or that I did 40 in a 35 zone fifteen minutes before we hit each other going 10 in the Safeway parking lot.   

       And yeah, the CHR only records when activated by the accident. In case of a multiple car pileup, Ithink they can be sorted out by noting the timing.   

       Also, I imagine you could have an eavesdropping device to capture transmissions from other cars that get into accidents, but what would you do with that information? Maybe sell it to a body shop, who will then call the insurance agent and bid for the repair job?   

       Dog Ed: Thanks, you're exactly right-- the device doesn't do anything you wouldn't have to do anyway. It just does it more easily. And isn't that what technology is all about?
ejs, May 17 2001

       I think this idea has merit. Accelerometers have become quite cheap and are used in vehicle stability systems, thus available for manufacturing purposes. Apply this with a simple digital transceiver that would transmit when the accelerometer records a sufficient impact- this device could be retro-fitted to any vehicle, simply by bolting or riveting it in place. The cost could be offset by insurance discounts.   

       The only problem I see is, how to identify the vehicle that my car just collided with? What if it's a multi-car pileup? Maybe this could be incorporated into the Lo-Jack system or something similar.
whlanteigne, Oct 14 2002


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