• Dec 7, 2012
At present, over 90 percent of all new vehicles sold in the United States today are equipped with event data recorders, more commonly known as black boxes. If the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gets its way, that already high figure will swell to a full 100 percent in short order.
Such automotive black boxes have been in existence since the 1990s, and all current Ford, General Motors, Mazda and Toyota vehicles are so equipped. NHTSA has been attempting to make these data recorders mandatory for automakers, and according to The Detroit News, the White House Office of Management Budget has just finished reviewing the proposal, clearing the way. Now NHTSA is expected to draft new legislation to make the boxes a requirement.

One problem with current black boxes is that there's no set of standards for automakers to follow when creating what bits of data are recorded, and for how long or in what format it is stored. In other words, one automaker's box is probably not compatible with its competitors.

Expect all these issues to be worked out "in the coming months," according to NHTSA spokeswoman Lynda Tran.


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  • 149 Comments
      mustsvt
      • 2 Years Ago
      Much more scary than these boxes are the devices from Progressive that people willingly plug into their cars just to save a few bucks on insurance. These track where, when and how you drive. That is the Big Brother technology I pray stays away from our cars.
        cmcclarty
        • 2 Years Ago
        @mustsvt
        Thats why I dont use them they also use your money for buying police radar guns and they use your money also for politics in the way of funding partys also. Take the name Progressive you guess what party they give money to.
        jacam
        • 2 Years Ago
        @mustsvt
        ya these people are stupid. lets all voluntarilly give up our right to privacy....
          cmcclarty
          • 2 Years Ago
          @jacam
          Belive it or not many do in the name of so called safety.
      Rob J
      • 2 Years Ago
      Forgot to add, maybe Autoblog would like to add this to their article "SEC. 31406. VEHICLE EVENT DATA RECORDERS. (b) Limitations on Information Retrieval- (1) OWNERSHIP OF DATA- Any data in an event data recorder required under part 563 of title 49, Code of Federal Regulations, regardless of when the passenger motor vehicle in which it is installed was manufactured, is the property of the owner, or in the case of a leased vehicle, the lessee of the passenger motor vehicle in which the data recorder is installed." So yes. The law itself states that the data is property of the owner - not the government or the automaker. But who actually READS this congress crap anyway?
        caddy-v
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Rob J
        It can easily be confiscated by court order.
          FreeThinker
          • 2 Years Ago
          @caddy-v
          No it can't. Read up on "due process", court subpeonas, and "probable cause." The courts are already overloaded. They simply don't have the resources to do this.
          Rob J
          • 2 Years Ago
          @caddy-v
          So can your cellphone. Or computer. Or car. Or bank account information. Or emails.... This is nothing new.
      LifeLongCarGuy
      • 2 Years Ago
      The government (at all levels) has cameras everywhere, can monitor cell phones, lurk social sites, muscle tech companies to share information with them about users, fly drones on the US population... you get the picture. We also share everything else about ourselves online, voluntarily. While this black box mandate continues the current pattern of intrusiveness they are the least of my worries.
      FreeThinker
      • 2 Years Ago
      To clarify, I would really prefer that they don't pass the law and kept black boxes out of cars. And I prefer less government interference with my daily life. Hence my username. However, I think if people understood how the really data is used, then they wouldn't be so afraid of this. Someone brought up the GM OnStar example to scare everyone: "Have you already forgotten that OnStar kept tracking information and continued to collect it even after a person cancelled their subscription? Then sold that information to (but not exclusively to) government agencies? All of that without the drivers committing a crime or a subpoena/warrant." http://gizmodo.com/5842317/onstar-were-tracking-your-speed-and-location-even-when-you-cancel-your-service This data was anonymized before it was shared. It was used for marketing purposed and traffic studies. That's how advertising agencies gather data to inform GM that say 73% of CUV's are used to drop off kids at school while only 6% of them ever see off-road use. It's how local governments can determine what changes might be required in large urban areas to ease traffic congestion and increase overall traffic speed during rush hour. Again, this information was anonymized. It cannot be traced back to you the individual owner. It is not a threat to you. Yet many people still choose to be afraid. That is quite interesting from a sociological perspective. Especially if you study group behavior. To suggest that the "gov'ment is gonna turn this into a police state with them there black boxes" is a grossly proposterous over-estimation of their capability and of your own value in our society. I hate to break it to many of you, but the vast majority of us aren't even worth the watching. Do you really believe that YOU are so important that any government office is going to sit around and track YOU without probable cause? With ALL the other things they need to do? Really? Interesting. IF SO, then you should be more even afraid of your smartphone. My phone already records my location and speed, but I don't go around turning it off of leaving it behind "just in case Big Brother is watching." I can't imagine walking around full of so much fear, telling everyone "The SKY IS FALLING!" I'm not doing anything illegal, so I have nothing to fear. I'm just working and living a good life. It's the difference between owning a gun or a few guns (OK by me) and owning 500 weapons not because you're a collector, but "just in case the gov'ment is gonna git me." Sorry, but you're just not that important. To anyone. The "gov'ment" doesn't even care about you, unless you're egregiously breaking the law. They've got bigger fish to fry. Like Bernie Madhoff. So go ahead, Chicken Littles of the world, tell everyone "The sky is falling!" It doesn't mean I need to walk around clenched up and afraid--like you do. I'll rather relax and enjoy my work and my family with a peace of mind you could't begin to understand.
        ZenDriver
        • 2 Years Ago
        @FreeThinker
        I'm not a fan of the black boxes, but they don't really bug me either. The irony is that 99% of the data gathered will be used in ways that ultimately benefit all citizens/consumers, regardless of party affiliation. Like reducing traffic gridlock and rush hour commute times. And helping companies produce better cars, navigation systems, etc. That's why any pro-business or pro-capitalism political representative will remain oddly quiet when asked about these black boxes. As you pointed out the data gathered has too much market value. But those simple facts you pointed out just don't fit within the agenda of the paranoid conspiracy theorists who want to blame one person for every single thing they don't understand. And I'm no Obama fan, but I hated how everyone blame Bush for EVERYTHING during his administration. Just drive safe on the road and you have nothing to worry about.
      ozric427
      • 2 Years Ago
      These things have been in vehicles for years, mostly for diagnostic use and crash test data. You need special equipment just to get the data out of them and special software to make the data usable. As far as disconnecting them, I doubt the car would run as it is tied to the PCM. It's probably set up so the car will not function with out it. The last I read, these things only capture the last 30 seconds or so data. There is not a long history that is stored like commercial aircraft recorders. As far as who should be able to have access to that data, that's a big debate. On one hand, it would be nice to be able to see who is at fault in an accident, but I don't like the idea of Police having this data just to show that you were speeding, on the other hand it could be shown to prove you were not speeding when they say you were. Lots of Pros & Cons.
        icemilkcoffee
        • 2 Years Ago
        @ozric427
        Interestingly, back when Toyota had their unintended accel problems, they were actually very reluctant to admit that they had such a capability in their cars. It was only when the 'problem' became a PR nightmare that Toyota finally started using this capability an started telling people the truth- which is there was never any problem, only driver error.
      G_Rock
      • 2 Years Ago
      In the even of an accident both drivers' insurance companies will use these boxes against them. There will never be a time when a driver is not at fault. From now on there will always be partial fault. Also, premiums won't go down regardless of less insurance being paid out.
      e1rogers
      • 2 Years Ago
      Yeah, if you aren't doing anything wrong,..., yeah. Patrolman, "please step out of the car sir." Motorist, "Uh, why?" Patrolman, "Sir, I need to check your on board computer to see if you were speeding when you passed that truck." Motorist, "Did you clock me on radar?" Patrolman, "Sir, I don't need to clock you anymore, your car will tell me."
      FreeThinker
      • 2 Years Ago
      Hey Autoblog, here's a real challenge for your journalists: How about an article following the actual use of the data recorded by OnStar, and by these black boxes? That would take some actual, what do they call that? Oh yes: research.
      colin.shark
      • 2 Years Ago
      If they were serious, dash cams would come first. How much can you tell from steering angle fuel and oil temperature, etc? It will be great when I get in a fender bender, and in order to clear my fault, I must reveal that I autocross to insurance companies.
        desinerd1
        • 2 Years Ago
        @colin.shark
        plus, you can get some really interesting videos from dash cams.
        scion_tc
        • 2 Years Ago
        @colin.shark
        Obama's not really interested in that, his goal is more tax revenue.
          Soccer Mom
          • 2 Years Ago
          @scion_tc
          Oh, these simple thoughts from a simple mind...
      Bernard
      • 2 Years Ago
      As long as you don't crash your car your safe. I just hope this thing doesn't keep more than an hour's worth of data. There would be no excuse for that.
      KAG
      • 2 Years Ago
      Scary we find out now there are black boxes in are cars then again we can be tracked through are phones.
      mrscdel
      • 8 Months Ago
      HIghway safety my akssss...this is spying on citizens in every way possible. Tell me what the hires of this govt will do with this info??? other than track those who disagree with them. and let insurance companies BUY politiicians to use the info against the driver. of course THEY and their families will have AMNESTY.........
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