NHTSA could soon mandate that all new cars be sold with... NHTSA could soon mandate that all new cars be sold with data-collecting equipment. (Photo courtesy ABC News).

Black boxes have helped investigators solve the causes of plane crashes for decades. Now authorities hope they can shed light on causes of car accidents.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration wants auto manufacturers to install the black boxes in new cars and light trucks.

Data records could keep tabs on a number of items that could help reconstruct car accidents – and perhaps lead to safety enhancements. They could help determine vehicle speed, whether brakes are applied, information about engine throttle, fuel economy and whether seat belts were buckled, says ABC News.

Not everyone is thrilled with that idea. Consumer advocates believe the boxes could result in higher insurance rates for those whose driving behavior is monitored. Privacy leaders believe the data could be used to spy on motorists.

"There are important safety concerns here and they shouldn't be ignored, but there are also pressing privacy concerns," Chris Calabrese, of the American Civil Liberties Union, tells ABC News. "Chiefly, who's going to access this information and how long is it going to be collected? I'd make sure that the owner of the vehicle controls the data."

Some manufacturers have installed black boxes on specific models, starting with General Motors in 1999, but NHTSA would like to mandate for all new vehicles. Now that onboard technology has evolved, they believe it would be easier to collect the data now.

Congress rejected legislation that would have mandated event data recorders in cars in 2010. But NHTSA could sidestep Congressional approval with its own rules. The White House has given its support to a rule that would require all future cars and trucks to be equipped with black boxes.

Last week, the Office of Management and Budget reviewed a proposal, and regulations are "likely" to follow early next year, says TheDetroitBureau.com.

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