Senate Passes Bill Requiring Implementation Of Vehicle Data Recorders

Crash testing the Buick Verano

Crash testing the Buick Verano

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If the House of Representatives approves a bill already passed by the Senate (or one very similar), this much is a given: by the 2015 model year, event data recorders will be required for every new car sold in the United States.

While the details have yet to be finalized, these “black boxes” will “capture and store data related to motor vehicle safety,” including direction of acceleration, throttle position, airbag deployment, speed prior to impact and a range of other data points that tell what events led up a crash.

As Car and Driver points out, there’s no need for panic just yet. First, many manufacturers have already implemented data recorders into new vehicles in the aftermath of the Toyota unintended acceleration debacle.

It was data from such recorders that proved the majority of unintended acceleration cases not caused by a sticking accelerator or pedal entrapment were caused by operator error, namely confusion between the gas and brake. Implementation benefits the automakers, so the addition of data recorders will likely happen even without a mandate.

Another reason not to panic is ownership of the data on the recorder. As the Senate bill is worded, the data belongs to the car’s owner or lessee. Yes, the police can access the data, but only with a court order, which means that you aren’t likely to be ticketed via your car’s diagnostic port any time soon.

Be forewarned, though: first responders, such as paramedics and fire fighters, will have access to the data without a court order, in the event that it helps them render aid at an accident scene. Attorneys can get access to the data too, via a subpoena, and such data is now used regularly in cases involving accident reconstruction.

In other words, your car won’t narc on you for doing 80 mph in a 65 mph zone, but it will tell investigators and attorneys who’s at fault in the event of a serious accident. Whether or not that induces paranoia depends entirely on your ability to safely operate a motor vehicle, regardless of speed.
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Comments (6)
  1. If the owner decides to sell the vehicle can the data be erased, if not can it be dismantled? Let's say the owner is a total looney and does a lot of unauthorized speeding whenever the situation allows, can that owner still be booked if he/she has already sold it to someone else and then an event happens where the coppers see a lot of speeding anomalies in the black box data recorder?

  2. @gazzed, the recorders don't store information indefinitely. I'm not sure if there's a standard, but I seem to remember them storing only the last 15 to 30 seconds of data. Maximum values (speed, engine rpm, etc) are likely logged, though.

  3. Do you know how I can get the audio information from the box recorder of an accident? The car was a Mercedes Benz.

  4. They don't record and store continuous long term data. They only record for a very limited period like 30 seconds or a minute and then the data is overwritten with new data.

  5. DO SOMETHING NOW! There is a WHITE HOUSE PETITION for Automotive Black Box EDR Consumer Protection available. SEE:

  6. I'm with you on that issue but I can still picture a whole lot of opportunistic people or even a syndicate operating to doctor these machines with the purpose of doctoring/gathering data with the intention to rob/sue big time..

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