Saturday, June 30, 2007

good motoring
H.Kishie Singh
And now black box for cars

WE all know that commercial aircraft carry a black box even though it is coloured orange. The black box in the aircraft records its position and monitors the movements of the plane. It also records all conversations between ground control staff and the captain. In short, it has its finger on the pulse of the aircraft. In case of a mishap like accident or hijack, the authorities are fully in the know of what went wrong, how and where. It is a data retrieval module.

The black box records data and informs you, the fleet owner, where each of your vehicles is at any given time. It will show the route it is taking, of any detours the vehicle has made

This same technology is now available for land-based vehicles. If what the manufacturer claims is possible, and there is no reason to doubt it since the GPS (Global Positioning System) technology has existed for a long time, then it could be the answer to the fleet owners’ problems. The black box records data and informs you, the fleet owner, where each of your vehicles is at any given time. It will show the route it is taking, of any detours the vehicle has made. It will record and show the speed. If the driver overspeeds, the owner will know. All stops, authorised or unauthorised, will be on record. It will show if the engine was idling or switched off. It will also record if the A/C has been switched on or off.

The black box derives its power from the vehicle battery. However, if the driver disconnects the black box from the battery, the equipment will continue to work for 10 hours. This information is also on record. Unlike an aircraft black box, it does not record voice conversations in the car.

All this information is relayed to the Hi Tech Point Technology office, the manufacturer of the black box. The movement of all vehicles is being monitored and all the information is stored. A specific individual user- id and password allows clients to access the website and get full information and details of their vehicles. However, overspeed alarm and location can be relayed to the customer on his cell phone. Simply put, at no times is a vehicle “out of sight.”

In the past, a transporter in Amritsar on the Amritsar-Delhi run had no way of knowing where his vehicle was. While in Delhi, the driver would make a few clandestine deliveries of his own, and pocket the money, effectively cheating the owner. No more. Every kilometre, every minute will be logged by “the eye in the sky”. School buses won’t be able to detour from the scheduled routes. The biggest blow will be to Haryana Roadways buses. Referred to as Haryana ‘airways’ because of their speed on the N.H.1, the drivers will have to behave themselves.

Vehicle black box (VBB) is another accessory available to safe guard your car. Made by Microtechnologies Ltd, this system uses the principle of the mobile phone where the signal towers locate the vehicle. The message-transmitting device has a sim card and its own power source.

It is also possible to SMS a message and shut off the engine. So here are the baddies stuck with a car they can’t start. They may escape but you can locate the car. The advantage of this system is that it can be controlled by your cell phone.

Last year about 90,000 cars were stolen in India and only about a third are recovered. With more and more expensive cars coming onto our roads, a black box as a security system will make sure your car is safe.

The black box from Hi-tech Point is priced at Rs 18,500 while the V.B.B from Microtechnologies is Rs 9,000. However, keep in mind that the Hi-tech Point Black Box has lot more functions to offer. It is of value to taxi operators, courier services and school buses. The V.B.B is suitable for a single car.

And a word of advice to motorists on jam-packed and water-logged streets—leave early, drive slowly, arrive safely.