Though you may not realize it, your car is probably equipped with an automotive 'black box'. Also known as Event Data Recorders, these devices record information from a vehicle's various sensors during a crash – everything from airbag performance to the angle of the steering wheel to the speed of the vehicle is retained. Though an estimated 90 percent of new vehicles are shipped with the devices, each manufacturer uses their own hardware, software and file formats.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will rule on a universal format for Event Data Recorders in the next 30 days, according to Automotive News. While not going so far as to make EDRs mandatory in every new vehicle, the ruling will create a standard format for data collected by EDRs across many different vehicles. The Society of Automotive Engineers has been given the task to come up with the universal format.

The new ruling will only cost automakers about $8 million, which isn't much in the grand scheme of things. To date these black boxes have aided in voluntary recalls and accident investigations, and automakers claim they're used to make vehicles safer. Of course, the real debate is whether information recorded by an EDR can be submitted as evidence against a driver in court. In that case, Big Brother may now be riding shot gun.

[Source: Automotive News – sub. required]