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Push to require black boxes in all cars

Push to require black boxes in all cars


Bio | Email | Follow: @TerriG_KVUE


Posted on March 12, 2010 at 12:18 AM

Updated Friday, Mar 12 at 9:30 AM

You've heard of black boxes in airplanes and chances are pretty good your car has one too.

You just may have to wait a few years before the manufacturer tells you. A rule by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will require car manufacturers to tell you whether your car is equipped with an Event Data Recorder or "black box" starting with 2011 models.

There’s another reason you may care. Thursday during a congressional hearing, the NHTSA talked about requiring EDRs in all new vehicles.

This issue is gaining momentum in light of the recent Toyota problems. In February GM leaders announced their support of the measure.

GM has been using these types of devices in production vehicles since 1974 and started adding them to everyday models in the 1990s and they’ve become much more sophisticated over the years.

Right now EDRs can capture data on speed, braking and how the car responds when you are in a crash that deploys the airbag. Car manufacturers say they use the information to make safety improvements. But the information has also been known to be used in reconstructing accidents.

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, “EDRs and the data they store belong to vehicle owners. Police, insurers, researchers, automakers, and others may gain access to the data with owner consent. Without consent, access may be obtained through a court order. For example, in a Florida criminal case involving a vehicular manslaughter charge, the police obtained a warrant to access the EDR data.”

And in fact a bill was signed into law by Governor Perry in 2005 that says the same thing for drivers here in Texas.

NHTSA estimated that about 64 percent of 2005 model passenger vehicles had the devices. By 2005, General Motors, Ford, Isuzu, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Subaru, and Suzuki were all voluntarily equipping all of their vehicles with EDRs, according to NHTSA.

The National Institute for Highway Safety says, “In August 2006, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued an EDR rule that will apply to 2013 and later models. The rule standardizes the information EDRs collect and makes retrieving the data easier. Devices defined as EDRs must record 15 data elements, including vehicle deceleration, in specific formats. More advanced EDRs may record additional information from the engine control module, antilock brakes, and other vehicle systems.”

Already the NHTSA has a database of “detailed crash information on a random sample of about 5,000 police reported vehicle crashes per year.”

I found this fascinating 147-page report that analyzes some of the data collected.

I’m curious what you think. Good idea or would this worry you? Share your thoughts below.