Update: Automotive Black Box Mandate? NHTSA Continues to Speculate


Update: Wired is now reporting the NHTSA at this point, is still only 'considering' mandating black boxes.

Will all vehicles be forced to adopt so-called black boxes, potentially allowing data pertaining to your driving to be recorded for later inspection? A report from Wired reveals the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will rule on the suggestion next week.

Black boxes have provided valuable information in the event of plane crashes, and when installed in vehicles, can do the same in the event of a collision. Vehicles equipped with recording devices are not entirely new: GM has been voluntarily installing the recorders in its cars since 1990. Vehicle telemetry, such as speed traveled and driver inputs, are typically recorded, which help to provide a so-called "snapshot" of the final moments before an accident.

This type of information can subsequently be viewed by law enforcement officers, insurance companies, and automakers alike to ascertain the cause of a collision. This doesn't sit well with many consumers, who feel access to such data essentially violates their privacy. Another point of concern lies with how to accessing that data. Will there be a universal format or connection (like OBD-II)? Will there be a procedure for archival? Who is allowed to access that data, and will that data remain secure?

While some view automotive black boxes as Big Brother effectively calling shotgun, some suggest the devices would be helpful in providing insight to automakers on whether vehicle systems or driver error contributed to an accident. For example, in the case of Toyota’s acceleration mess, investigators could look directly at vehicle inputs to determine what occurred in each case. If driver fault is ruled out, automakers believe the data collected can allow them to quickly address the problem and -- if needed -- issue recalls in a timely fashion.

For now, the debate continues. What do you think? Is a black box in your car no big deal, or is such a system encroaching upon your personal privacy? What provisions would need to be adopted in order for you to accept a data logger riding along in your vehicle?

Source: Wired

David B
We do not need or want standardization, the only use for standardization is for spying on the owners. Police would be able to download info on the spot. The requirement for a black box has nothing to do with creating a safer vehicle. Proof: an EDR for recording the forces on an occupant for the purpose of creating a safer vehicle needs to record delta V in 3 directions XYZ and does not need to record seatbelt usage , exact position of steering wheel, exact speed, or need to be standardized or cabable of being downloaded by everyone. Government requires delta V in only one direction, but requires seatbelt usage, exact position of steering wheel, exact speed and able to be downloaded by everyone. In other words, the Government required black box is pretty damn useless for building a better car, but is very useful for spying on people. As everything else that the government mandates is all about control and rarely has anything to do with protecting the people. Abolish NHISTA, use third party certification. We got along fine in the 50s and 60s without govt pre approval of everything from the cars we drive to the health choices we make. Cars used to cost less than a 6 month salery, now a decent car costs more than a person makes in a year, and the govt wants to put more costly regulations on car manufacturers including dealers fees and an airplane style black box that records our every move. with the way we are goung, cars will end up costing a two year salery. Henry Ford got it !!! his workers needed to be able to afford to buy his product for him to stay in business. I my self bought my last new car. decreasing wages and increasing costs, thanks to the govt, I just can't afford it. how far we have gone from the principles that founded this country when we as a society decided that we need govt approval from of our cars, our medical choices, our schools, our retirement choices, our cell phones,, and how far we have come towards a totalitarian govt when we accept govt mandated black boxes that record our every move. We used to be the land of the free and the home of the brave -- now we are a nation of cowards residing in a facists corporate controlled police state.
David B
when I was attending highschool in the early 80s, We were told multiple times that a free market economy will out-perform a command economy every time andIbelieved it and still believe it to this day. I learned that even that the old soviot union had slightly more population than we do, it only had only fraction of the production capacity that we had - they had to totally gear their facturies toward their war effort while we were enjoying both guns and butter. i looked at an ariel picture of russia, I think from Time magazine. Every parked car looked the same, a 2 door econo box for the masses in 3 or 4 different colors, except an occasional black sedan for the plutocrats. while we were enjoyion Hi-Fi sterios,VCRs, big screen tvs, and the emerging personal computers, the typical russian had a govt approved small single speaker radio and a govt approved small TV. All the govt approved housing buildings looked the same ofcourse, resembling NY Citys 4 wing public housing hi-rises. Communist Russia did have a lot of military technology, but rarely transferred into their civilian world. Finaly, in the 90s, their govt collapsed from the weight of their command economy and their constant waging of war. Well Guess What. We are moving toward a command economy where the govt tells us what cars we can drive, how cars are to be built, how our houses are to be built, weather if we can put up a fence or a shed, what styles and architecture is acceptable in many neighborhoods, what medical treatments we can and can Not have (the govt has to approve of the treatments and the procedures that want for our selves and keep our medical records). NY City will deny a art store because there are too many and california will deny permission to build a house because the garage is larger than society norms, and will tell Steve Jobs that he can not tear down a old house on the property that he bought to build a new energy efficient house because the govt decided that the old house has historical value. The govt has tried to mandate policeware on computers and clipper chips on our encryption devices. We have mandated black boxes on our cars. We are doing exactly what Stalin wanted to do, but didn't have the technology. we need all kinds of permissions from the govt to start a business and bookshelves of regulations to follow. History is repeating itself. manufacturing, construction, and innovation in The United States has virtually halted. Our ever expanding, constantly warring govt is going bankrupt.
More Big Brother/Govt intrusion into the GP life. But then when you have the "Dumbing Down of America" exceeding expectations better than Wall Street stock picks........why not cash in!!
Captain Snark
A sensible approach would be to have the devices operate like those on aircraft, where only the last hour or so of data is kept, and older information is continually erased. Also, access should require owner and/or driver permission. It makes no sense to preclude the use of such valuable information, but it also makes no sense not to give reasonable consideration to privacy concerns.

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