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?