Many vehicles are now fitted with tracking devices. Such devices allow the owner to locate the vehicle if it goes missing. In the past tracking devices were most often fitted to high value vehicles.
Increasingly, however, tracking devices are being fitted to other vehicles such as fleet cars and hire cars. Some people agree to allow their motor insurer to fit a tracking device to their car so that their driving performance can be monitored. This is done in the hope the insurer will reduce their insurance premiums over time.
Tracking devices are sophisticated in terms of the information they record. The science associated with tracking devices is called telematics. This article explains how telematics works and the forensic value of the data to drivers, insurers, lawyers and the courts.
How it works.
A tracking device records and stores information. It then sends that information to a remote server where the same is permanently stored. Satellite communications and mobile telephone technology is used by the device to both receive information (in particular information regarding the vehicle’s position) and to send information to the remote server.
The device is set to record the location of the vehicle at routine intervals. This can be every 3, 4 or 5 minutes etc. The device will record the latitudinal and longitudinal co-ordinates of the vehicle at the time in question. In turn that location can be identified with real precision. Any given set of co-ordinates should pinpoint the location of the vehicle within a radius of between 5 metres and 25 metres. Good satellite coverage is required to achieve precise co-ordinates. The device needs to be communicating with at least 3 satellites at any given time in order to achieve a good co-ordinate location reading. The more satellites the device is communicating with, the more precise the co-ordinate location reading. When a routine location record is created the same includes a host of other information including the time, the vehicle’s speed and the vehicle’s direction of travel.
The device is also set to make an immediate and non-routine record of certain unusual changes in the g-forces being experienced by the vehicle. It does not take much change in the g-forces experienced by a vehicle to trigger a non-routine record. If the vehicle strikes a kerb that is likely to be recorded as a non-routine incident. A collision with another vehicle is very likely to trigger a non-routine record. The device records that there has been an unusual change in the g-forces experienced by the vehicle. At the same time it records the standard information associated with a routine record such as location but also records the extent to which the vehicle experienced unusual g-forces, whether the vehicle was moving or stationary and, if it was moving, whether or not it came to a halt shortly thereafter or simply kept on moving.
Those wishing to stage a road traffic accident often choose to do so by hiring a vehicle from a reputable hire firm in order to use that vehicle in a staged collision. In this way the fraudster is provided with a fully insured vehicle at modest cost which can be damaged with abandon. Numerous claims can then be brought against the hire firm’s insurer.
If such a vehicle is fitted with a tracking device the same can be an invaluable tool in identifying the fraud and defending the claims. As more vehicles are fitted with tracking devices it should become increasingly difficult for fraudsters to stage accidents. Any attempt at staging will have to be planned meticulously so that the tracking device records what appears to be a genuine accident which conforms with all the accounts later relied upon by the fraudsters in relation to location, time, vehicle speed and sequence of events. That will not be easy.