New RAC ‘magic box' to prove prevention is better than cure

3 Nov 2013

The RAC is to turn the breakdown industry on its head in 2013 with the launch of its ‘magic box’ for members which will remotely communicate with base to provide diagnostic information which could potentially identify certain vehicle faults before they result in a stressful and inconvenient breakdown.

The revolutionary RAC Advance early warning system builds on current telematics technology but utilises the latest diagnostic software to build a comprehensive picture of how a car’s systems are performing. In the event of a breakdown it will alert the RAC’s response team who can remotely connect with its onboard diagnostic software to identify the fault and give an accurate location for the motorist, enabling the rescue service to swiftly despatch a patrol pre-armed with the diagnosis and the appropriate repair solution or parts, or order up a recovery vehicle if the problem cannot be fixed at the roadside*.

RAC Advance will also act as an instant alert to the rescue service in the event of a serious accident using sophisticated recognition software and provide a useful time and location record for the motorist of the event**.

All of the RAC’s 1,700 patrol vehicles have already been fitted with first generation devices and more than 35,000 fleet vehicles in the UK are already using the technology. RAC Advance represents state-of-the-art diagnostic telematics tailored to provide a motorist-friendly rapid breakdown service which will develop to offer full-flight ‘guardian angel’ capabilities with forthcoming software updates.

The device will be available to all existing and new RAC members during 2013 and will offer a host of additional functionality which will help to make motoring safer, easier and more affordable. It will also enable them to save up to £620 a year by helping them to monitor their own driving efficiency and thus achieve better fuel economy, and potentially rewarding them with a significant discount on their car insurance premium.

The simple device, the size of a matchbox, can be self-installed in minutes and can be accessed via a mobile app on the driver’s phone, tablet enabling them to check multiple levels of performance including their own ‘driver score, accurate ‘taxman friendly’ mileage records, GPS tracking and other key information.

RAC technical director David Bizley said: “Offering peace of mind in a box, RAC Advance will revolutionise how we deal with our members. We know that some breakdowns can be avoided with a pre-emptive warning and intervention and this will significantly advance how we are able to deal with an actual breakdown or accident, reassuring our members that they are in safe hands. With an accurate fault diagnosis and vehicle location, our patrols will be able to reach members more quickly and where possible, prepared with appropriate replacement parts.

“Our promise is to be the motorist’s champion and our aim is to make it easier, safer, and more affordable for our members to own and run a car.”

Research shows that most drivers can save up to 15% on their annual fuel bill by adopting ‘greener’ driving behaviours. This means driving more efficiently, accelerating and braking less sharply and using the vehicles own momentum to best advantage. RAC Advance will enable the motorist to review their driving and suggest efficiencies and changes to make significant financial savings.

Bizley added: “Based on the typical average annual fuel bill motorists could save up to £320 a year***. On top of this is the potential to save up to £300 by sharing their responsible driving behaviour via RAC Advance on their RAC Car Insurance.

“RAC Advance technology reinforces this with the message that there is no need to feel vulnerable, the RAC will keep a watchful eye on your car and be there to help when needed.”

The RAC has conducted extensive consumer research and testing to understand and address motorists’ perceptions and concerns about conventional telematics and to assess which functions offer genuine value to the driving and car owning experience. Different functions appealed more strongly to different people, however the combined breakdown diagnostics and accident care capabilities were welcomed universally while functions like journey mileage recording was very popular with the self-employed and business users.

Bizley added: “Our initial road-testing with consumers has demonstrated the value this will give our members as it allows them to take far greater control of their motoring costs. The breakdown and accident functionality was rated highest, but drivers were also very keen on the ‘driver score’ and the ability to significantly improve fuel economy and the potential saving on their insurance premium.

“We are keen to conduct extensive consumer testing and will be recruiting a team of 1,000 RAC members to put RAC Advance through its paces on UK roads – members can register their interest via the MY RAC on the RAC website or via this link: www.rac.co.uk/advance.”

The RAC, which has been serving motorists for 116 years, has consistently led the market in terms of technology, innovation and adopting new practices to serve its seven million members. From the first roadside telephone boxes 100 years ago to the use of two-way radio in the 1950s and the development of a rapid deployment trailer in 2002 the RAC has always looked to be first to use innovation to benefit its members.