It's been working its way through Congress for years, but according to Car and Driver, an event recorder mandate could soon become law. The Senate has already voted to adopt a transportation bill that would make the so-called "black boxes" mandatory by the 2015 model year. According to the report, the House of Representatives is also expected to pass a similar statute.
While the specifics of the bills are "vague" – to use C/D's words – they're also likely to change before becoming law. What probably won't, according to the report, is the standard data set that the Department of Transportation has set forth, 15 measurements that include direction of acceleration, throttle position, and time that the airbags fired, among others.
This raises the specter of government snooping, of course. The Senate version at least specifies that the data contained in the little electronic box is actually owned by the owner of the vehicle, according to the report. Johnny Law can still come around with a warrant to gain access to it, however, and first responders and paramedics would be able to do so without the warrant, provided they needed the information to respond to the emergency.