"The car insurance breakdown instructed me I had an accident – within the ocean 30 years earlier than I used to be born" – Mirror.co.uk
Telematics black boxes can save you money by rewarding safe driving and lowering your insurance premiums, but when they make mistakes the opposite can happen, as drivers discover
Image: Getty Images)
A young driver with a telematics box in his car was amused when asked if he was in an accident 27 years before he was born.
Telematics car insurance works by tracking your journey with a special "black box" or your smartphone.
It then calculates an insurance premium based on your driving style.
Many young drivers choose telematics insurance because they would otherwise be charged high premiums.
The average premium for a young driver is £ 1,062, according to a study by Who? – with fuel and other costs adding an additional £ 700 per year.
One driver, Aaron Horlock, equipped his car with a telematics box to get cheaper insurance for drivers in their early 20s.
The box was sent by Freedom Brokers insurance company and generally worked as expected.
But one day Horlock, a London-based musician, was surprised to see a notice from the company asking if he was in an accident.
Knowing that he had no crashes, Horlock opened the accompanying telematics app to investigate.
Have you been caught by a telematics bug? Message email@example.com
The mystery deepened when the app thought he was involved in an accident in 1970 – 27 years before he was born.
It also took around 37 years before his Volkswagen Fox even rolled off the assembly line.
But the alleged crash defied the laws of both physics and time.
The app thought the accident occurred at sea several hundred miles off the coast of Nigeria.
Horlock saw the funny side and told the company that no such accident had happened.
"One day it just happened that I was asked if I had an accident or not," he said. "It can do the same for emergency braking or stalling, things like that."
Horlock got off lightly, however, as mistakes by telematics companies sometimes lead to insurance being canceled or premiums rising.
This can be seen on review sites like Trustpilot.
While most telematics insurance companies get overwhelmingly good reviews and help save you money, sometimes some do the exact opposite.
A driver with an Insurethebox (ITB) telematics device said he was billed for 200 miles, he never drove – and when the box wasn't even connected to the car.
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The driver said, "I removed the black box as instructed by ITB and now this week it shows that I'm 201 miles down and need to buy more miles."
Then he sold the car, removed the black box, smashed it and sent it for recycling according to Insurethebox's instructions.
But then the company came forward that he had been caught speeding – 25 days after he had sold the vehicle.
Insurethebox was asked for a comment.
Part of the problem is that, like all technology, telematics devices only occasionally make mistakes.
For example, if you are driving at 110 km / h under a bridge on a freeway with a road with a speed limit of 40 km / h above it, it may appear to an insurer that you are driving too fast.
The telematics devices can also temporarily lose the connection, which leads to problems for the drivers.
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Some record data in regular pulses instead of continuously, while others lose connection every now and then.
When this happens, it can result in strange situations being recorded as if they really happened.
This is what happened to Horlock, according to Freedom Brokers.
A Freedom Brokers spokesperson said, “I can assure you that incidents like this are extremely rare. In this case, an accident alert was triggered in the two or three seconds before the telematics device found a GPS signal and timestamp, so the display was just the default. "
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The app works by finding out where drivers are in relation to a single standard point – the center of the earth, at zero degrees latitude and longitude.
Incidentally, this point is right off the coast of Africa.
The spokesman added: “We take accident warnings very seriously. While the location and time information was set to the standard, we automatically evaluate the data recorded by the telematics device in order to recognize whether a collision could have occurred and then inquire via its app or voice over the device that it is yours goes well."
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