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User privacy and costs regarding the integration of high-tech EDRs are the largest concerns

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration may make event data recorders, or "black boxes," a requirement for all vehicles starting next month according to Wired’s Autopia.

Event data recorders (EDR) are devices already installed in some automobiles, and record information during vehicle crashes or accidents. EDRs cannot be turned off, and once electronically triggered by problems in the engine or dramatic shifts in wheel speed, the EDR records this vehicle input and produces a snapshot of the final moments before the accident. 

General Motors has installed black boxes in nearly all models with airbags since the 1990's. In North America, GM currently uses Bosch EDRs for its models.

"In the early 90's, we could get diagnostic data, seatbelt use and crash severity," said Brian Everest, GM's senior manager of field incidents. "Currently, we can get crash severity, buckle status, precrash data related to how many events the vehicle may have been in and brake application."

Newer vehicles can identify all of the above along with steering input and whether lane departure warning systems were used. 

Some people see EDRs as tracking devices that invade personal privacy, while others see them as helpful aids to accident-related cases. The main problem is that there are no clear universal standards regarding EDRs and who can access their data. 

Florida is one of 37 states that have no statutes barring the access to EDR data, while most of the other 13 states would allow police officers with a warrant to obtain EDR data. 

Car companies originally owned the data, but courts later ruled that vehicle owners and lessees owned the data. There are no federal laws regarding access to EDR data, but states stepped in and determined how much data those other than owners and lessees could access. 

"Until recently, there has been no industry standard or recommended practice governing EDR format, method of retrieval or procedure for archival," said Tom Kowalick, chairman of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers P1616 Standards Working Group on Motor Vehicle Data Recorders. "Even for a given automaker, there may not be standardized format. This lack of standardization has been an impediment to national-level studies of vehicle and roadside crash safety. It also addresses concerns over privacy rights by establishing standards protecting data from misuse." 

Some statutes, such as one in particular in California, came about due to insurance companies obtaining EDR data from users' vehicles without their knowledge or consent. 

In 2008, standards were proposed in an effort to make EDR data accessible to more than just automakers as well as prevent data tampering. These guidelines would also prevent the removal or deactivation of the black boxes, making them useful and trustworthy. In addition, standards would clearly state who has access to the data and what they can do with it. 

While black boxes can be used for vehicle crashes in order to assess what happened, they can also be used to determine whether an accident was caused due to a vehicle defect, which would lead to a recall if necessary. 

The NHTSA's pending mandate may assist in overall driver safety, but there are still many concerns regarding EDRs. For instance, automakers and buyers hope that newer, advanced black boxes do not heighten the price of new vehicles. But perhaps the biggest question involves access to the EDR data. Many wonder if insurance companies and car dealers will be allowed to look at EDR data and deny claims based on that information. 

"Our position on EDRs is that we would only use that data in a claims investigation with customer consent or if we're required to do so by law," said Leah Knapp, a spokesperson for Progressive Auto Insurance. 

For now, how much an EDR affects you depends on what data points it records and where you live, but the NHTSA's new standards are expected to clarify this universally.

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My Plan
By Stuka on 5/25/2011 8:16:17 PM , Rating: 1
I am absolutely for civil liberties and personal responsibility. However, this would be easy to implement with no real implications for privacy given the nature of an auto accident. You have absolutely no reasonable right to privacy when involved in a possible violation of law with regard specifically to the events and actions immediately preceding your involvement.

I would impliment it as such:
1) Only law enforcement will be able to retrieve data via warrant issued in response to involvement in collision with vehicle, pedestrian or property. Retrieval will consist of removal of the EDR, break of tamper seal, and replacement of new seal (specifying access date) by certified law enforcement authority upon completion. Data will be utilized to govern issuance of appropriate traffic violations, if any. Data will not be made available to any person or entity unless subpoenaed for criminal or civil court proceedings.
2) Data will consist of most recent 5mins of input from the following: GPS track, %brake application, %throttle application, %throttle position, gear select position, clutch position (on/off, if applicable), speed, steering wheel position, accelerometer (for collision vectoring), tire pressure.
3) Critical events will be stored for 24hrs, simply stating one of the following: Speed in Excess of 90mph, Acceleration in Excess of Xft/sec^2. This data will not be utilized to cite traffic violations, only to determine "character" of driver leading up to incident.
4) Tampering with device or related sensors preventing retrieval will constitute a felony.
5) Failure to provide law enforcement access to EDR will constitute Obstruction of Justice.
6) No remote monitoring devices shall be installed.

This would be the most cost effective solution and least intrusive for all the whiners. I think most of us have been in at least one accident, or know someone who has, where the other guy didn't get shit 'cos lack of evidence.

RE: My Plan
By sorry dog on 5/26/2011 1:46:27 PM , Rating: 2
The one of the biggest problems with data storage to be used for legal means is that is gives attorneys ample fodder to confused issue for judges or jurors.

3) Critical events will be stored for 24hrs, simply stating one of the following: Speed in Excess of 90mph, Acceleration in Excess of Xft/sec^2. This data will not be utilized to cite traffic violations, only to determine "character" of driver leading up to incident.

The fact that I did 93 on deserted highway the night before had nothing to do with my actions if I was in an accident of some type the next day...and you certainly can't know a whole lot about my character from that. I think that is one of the biggest fear about this whole deal that a few random data points can be misconstrued and what's "fair" will be even harder to figure out.

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