Clip from SNL sketch lampooning Toyota's unintended acceleration woes.  (Source: NBC Universal)
Move looks to head off potential legislation from Washington

Privacy advocates believe that any monitoring of a person's driving habits or habits of their daily lives is an invasion of privacy, and many consumers agree with this. There have been flight data recorders or black boxes on commercial aircraft for years to help determine the cause of a crash, and no one seems to mind those.

Lawmakers in Washington are working on draft legislation that proposes new safety features on all new automobiles along with mandatory black boxes for automobiles. Privacy advocates are against the black boxes, but major carmakers have announced that they are for the black boxes today.

The big three automakers along with Toyota have announced that they will support mandatory black boxes on cars and brake override systems on new cars. Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers president and CEO Dave McCurdy will tell a house panel today that the automakers support some of the new safety suggestions offered in the draft legislation. McCurdy's alliance represents GM, Ford, Chrysler, Toyota, and seven other companies.

McCurdy's prepared testimony will say, "The Alliance supports a vehicle brake override standard that will reassure consumers that they can count on their automobiles. Brake override technology is a comprehensive solution to unintended acceleration, whether it's caused by faulty electronics or a pedal getting caught in a floor mat; therefore, a pedal placement rulemaking would not provide additional safety benefits."

Support for black boxes and brake overrides appear to be a preemptive move by the automakers to try to prevent legislation that could force other safety measures like specific rules for pedal placement. However, the alliance is concerned about some of the proposed black box capabilities such as those saying the boxes in cars should be like those in airplanes. Aircraft black boxes cost about $22,000; versions in cars that often cost less than the price of the aircraft black box would need to be much cheaper. The automotive black boxes under the proposed legislation would have to record 60 seconds of data before a crash and 15 seconds after.

The alliance of automakers also supports "the intent" of a keyless ignition system that would allow for the ignition of a vehicle to be turned off, killing the engine of a vehicle in an emergency. This is yet another way to prevent unintended acceleration and would appear to be redundant in the face of a brake override.

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