Car Black Box: Is It Compulsory to Install One in Singapore?

Last updated on September 17, 2021

hand holding steering wheel

Have you been in a traffic accident or collision? Certain manufactured cars may have black boxes installed in them, which can record data related to the circumstances of the traffic accident. In such instances, the black box recording may also help with the investigations of traffic accidents or settle insurance claims related to such accidents.

This article aims to provide information to drivers and car owners in Singapore regarding the installation and use of a car black box, as well as whether it can be removed and how a black box’s data can be used.

It will cover:

What is a Car Black Box?

A car black box, or also known as an event data recorder, is a surveillance camera installed in motor vehicles that records data on incidents that may happen while the vehicle is being driven or parked. A car black box can provide 24-hour car surveillance even while the car is not running.

One purpose for installing black boxes in motor vehicles is to record circumstances and moments leading up to possible traffic accidents so that such information can help prevent similar incidents in the future. These recordings may help investigators determine the causes of accidents or crashes.

Car black box recordings may also help settle insurance claims relating to traffic accidents. More information on these uses of car black boxes will be described below.

Black boxes have been installed in aeroplanes for quite some time and can now be found in cars as well.

What is the Difference Between a Car Black Box and a Dashboard Camera?

There are several main differences between a black box and a dashboard camera. It is important to know the distinction so that a car owner may decide if installing a dashboard camera would be beneficial even though a black box may already have been installed.

A black box, consistent with its name, looks like a black box installed in a motor vehicle. It is usually located behind a steering wheel and/or dashboard, but is not easily accessible. It also cannot be turned off.

A dashboard camera, however, consists of a camera, a monitor, data cards and data access sockets. It is usually conveniently installed on the windshield or rearview mirror of the car.

Various information is recorded by a car black box, such as speed, acceleration, braking patterns and GPS locations. However, a black box typically stores information around the timeframe of the accident. The recording usually starts only prior to the occurrence of the traffic accident (around 20 seconds before a collision).

On the other hand, a dashboard camera’s recording may oftentimes be more accurate and comprehensive in understanding the circumstances of the traffic accident. This is because it may include information on the time of the accident, location of the vehicle, as well as the driver’s point of view in the form of a video footage.

Such data may remain available for the entire duration of the recording, which can be from the time the car engine was started and throughout the duration of the drive. Furthermore, unlike a black box’s recording, which is harder to gain access to, the recording of a dashboard camera is easily stored in an SD card and may be accessed anytime.

Does My Car Have a Black Box?

If your car is a 2014 model or later, your car most likely has a black box. The easiest way to know if your car has a black box is to read the owner’s manual for your vehicle.

When is the Installation of a Car Black Box Required?

While there is no law yet that mandates that a black box be installed in all motor vehicles in Singapore, there are several instances where installing a black box is required.

One instance where a black box is required to be installed in a motor vehicle is in the case of autonomous or self-driving vehicles. The Ministry of Transport has stated that self-driving vehicles being trialled on Singapore’s roads must be fitted with a black box recorder.

Another instance where a black box may be required to be fitted in a car is in the case of insurance telematics. Insurance telematics is a car insurance scheme where insurers get to calculate the risk profile of car owners so as to have a more tailored approach to determining insurance premiums.

In this scheme, lower-risk drivers may qualify for lower-priced premiums, depending on recorded driver behaviour. Lower-risk drivers are those found by established algorithms to have good driving habits as compared to drivers who speed, jam their brakes harshly and the like. –Black boxes are required to be installed so that insurers may, with the driver’s consent, collect and monitor real-time driving data on the car owners’ driving behaviours.

Currently, NTUC Income has a FlexiMileage scheme which uses a black box to track the kilometres a driver travels in a year, with drivers who clock in less than a particular mileage being eligible for discounts to their insurance premiums.

Can I Turn Off or Remove My Car’s Black Box?

If your car’s black box was fitted as part of an insurance programme, removing or tampering the black box without the insurer’s consent may void your insurance policy.

Furthermore, a black box is sealed and tamper-proof so it may not be possible to turn it off.

Who Gets Access to the Data Being Recorded By My Black Box?

If your car’s black box is installed as part of an insurance programme, then your insurer is the one that has primary access to the data. However, most telematics insurance policies provide the driver access to the data being recorded so the driver can measure and adjust their driving behaviour, if necessary.

There are also certain features that may come with the installation of black boxes as part of an insurance programme. These include additional security features that allow car owners to monitor their vehicles remotely, as well as track their vehicles in instances of theft.

In general, it is not easy for just anyone to get access to the data being recorded by a car black box. In the event of an accident, you would need to use a crash data retrieval system in order to access the data, and that can be quite expensive.

Usually, if a car already has a fitted black box included as part of the unit, then the car manufacturer may be able to use that retrieval system if required. This allows manufacturers to have access to information of a crash so as to assist in further research in the development of safer vehicles.

Can the Data Recorded By My Car Black Box be Used as Evidence Against Me in Court?

While there is currently no law in Singapore that specifically addresses the recording of car black box data, any recording preserved in a black box may be used as evidence in court, subject to the rules on admissibility of evidence.

However, if the black box you have in your car is connected to a telematics insurance policy, then subject to the specifics of the agreement with your insurer, any data obtained from the device may be used by your insurer with respect to future insurance claims.

You may not necessarily need the assistance of a lawyer if you are intending to take up telematics insurance that involves the installation of a car black box. Just make sure that you are completely aware of the fine print of the agreement you are entering into, including the kinds of information you are consenting to being recorded by your insurer.

However, if you do already have a black box installed in your car and are currently involved in a traffic accident lawsuit, it would be advisable to obtain the assistance of an experienced personal injury lawyer. Your lawyer will be able to advise you on the next steps you can take, especially regarding the possible use of the black box data as evidence in court.

Whether you are the party whose data/recording may be used against you, or the party who may need the data/recording in order to prove your claims, it is important to engage a lawyer as soon as possible. Acting with haste can help ensure that the black box recording is obtained and preserved before it is deleted or tampered with.