Back in December the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration proposed a broader use of event data recorders (a.k.a. black box) to improve vehicle safety. From their presser:
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) today proposed a new standard that would capture valuable safety-related data in the seconds before and during a motor vehicle crash. The proposed rule would require automakers to install event data recorders (EDRs) — devices that collect specific safety-related data — in all light passenger vehicles beginning September 1, 2014.
“By understanding how drivers respond in a crash and whether key safety systems operate properly, NHTSA and automakers can make our vehicles and our roadways even safer,” said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “This proposal will give us the critical insight and information we need to save more lives.”
NHTSA estimates that approximately 96 percent of model year 2013 passenger cars and light-duty vehicles are already equipped with EDR capability. These devices are located in the vehicle and require special hardware and software to copy the information. A crash or air bag deployment typically triggers the EDR, which collects data in the seconds before and during a crash. The data collected by EDRs can be used to improve highway safety by ensuring NHTSA, other crash investigators and automotive manufacturers understand the dynamics involved in a crash and the performance of safety systems.
Examples of some of the information recorded include:
- vehicle speed;
- whether the brake was activated in the moments before a crash;
- crash forces at the moment of impact;
- information about the state of the engine throttle;
- air bag deployment timing and air bag readiness prior to the crash; and
- whether the vehicle occupant’s seat belt was buckled.
EDRs do not collect any personal identifying information or record conversations and do not run continuously.
You can read the specific regulation here. This technology while helpful for research (and insurance investigators and law enforcement) will not prevent injuries. Some people probably won’t have any problem having this in their car and will approve the technology. Others may see this as a violation of privacy. This will be a mandate so it will be present in new vehicles whether you like it or not. They are taking public comments on this regulation until February 11, 2013.