Automotive

All new U.S. cars may require a "black box" by 2014

The mandatory use of event data recorders may help keep events like this from occurring (Photo: Shutterstock)
The mandatory use of event data recorders may help keep events like this from occurring (Photo: Shutterstock)
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The mandatory use of event data recorders may help keep events like this from occurring (Photo: Shutterstock)
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The mandatory use of event data recorders may help keep events like this from occurring (Photo: Shutterstock)

Flight data recorders, commonly known as “black boxes,” have been a standard feature in airliners since the early 1960s. More recently, various companies have started offering apps and dedicated devices that essentially serve as black boxes for cars, keeping a record of the vehicle’s parameters and location when involved in an accident. Now, the U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is proposing that similar devices become mandatory in all new light passenger vehicles sold in the U.S. by September 1st, 2014.

According to the NHTSA, an estimated 96 percent of model year 2013 passenger cars and light-duty vehicles already come equipped with event data recorders (EDRs).

Unlike the aftermarket devices, which are aimed chiefly at providing proof that a driver wasn’t at fault in an accident, the factory-installed EDRs are intended more as a way of collecting data regarding which actions lead to accidents, and how a vehicle’s safety systems respond when an accident occurs. That data could then be used by automakers or government agencies, to help make roads and vehicles safer.

Some of the EDR-recorded data that the NHTSA hopes to analyze includes things such as vehicle speed; whether or not the brake was activated before a crash; crash forces at the moment of impact; engine throttle level; deployment timing and readiness of air bags; and whether or not the vehicle occupant’s seat belt was buckled. EDRs are triggered by an impact or air bag deployment, and only save data from the moments leading up to and during an accident.

In 2006, the NHTSA established a set of data collection standards for the devices. The new proposal calls for automakers not only to follow those standards, but also to provide a commercially-available tool for copying that data from a vehicle – and for EDRs to be required equipment in any passenger vehicle weighing less than 8,500 pounds (3,856 kg). The agency couldn’t access or use the data without the vehicle owner’s consent, however.

“EDRs provide critical safety information that might not otherwise be available to NHTSA to evaluate what happened during a crash – and what future steps could be taken to save lives and prevent injuries,” said NHTSA Administrator David Strickland. “A broader EDR requirement would ensure the agency has the safety-related information it needs to determine what factors may contribute to crashes across all vehicle manufacturers.”

Source: NHTSA via ars technica

18 comments
Daishi
It sounds like maybe the resale value of my 2012 just went up.
Paul van Dinther
Just because it is technologically possible doesn't mean they should. Not hard to see where this goes. Next the car will notify the cops whenever you are speeding and soon after the police will track where you are when they want a "word" with you. Eventually, the cops will be able to push a button to stop you dead in your tracks. I love technology but not in the hands of the authorities and most certainly not compulsory.
Shawn Sieben
@Diachi They have already been putting them in new vehicles since 2008. Granted not all manufacturers have done this, but most are already there.
Keith Reeder
"Next the car will notify the cops whenever you are speeding and soon after the police will track where you are when they want a "word" with you. Eventually, the cops will be able to push a button to stop you dead in your tracks." Of course, there's an easy solution to that dilemma. Don't speed. The fact that a device like this might make it easier for crime prevention agencies to prevent crime is NOT a strong argument against introducing it.
nutcase
This is good news for those who take road safety seriously. We need all the evidence we can get because Science is bulls#!t without evidence.
Cedric Naculangan
When would they include auto seat eject buttons just like what we see in jet fighters?
tkj
It is my understanding that ALL cars built in the USA since 1999 MUST already have such a device. It is located either under the dash or under the driver's seat, and can be 'polled' or its data recovered when 'necessary'. I dont understand why this fact is ignored by the various recent news reports on the matter. Existing devices 'loop' every 20 seconds ...
Mel Tisdale
About time too! Let's hope the idea goes global. All we really need to do then is put some gaffer tape over the mouths of some motoring journalists, such as Jeremy Clarkson, and we will have much safer roads. Why are heavier vehicles not subject to the same regulation. Most accidents that they are involved in are usually more dramatic.
sakosj
It should be made mandatory. To begin with the high priced and/or high speed cars. Evenually insucance companies could promote it elsewhere.
moreover
I'm also left to wonder what the definition of "light vehicles" is. The US has an ugly history of excepting light trucks from all kinds of regulations, from fuel efficiency to safety. I also have a low opinion on how light truck drivers behave on the road, but that's not entirely scientific :)