Does Your Car Have a Black Box?

For over a century the development of the automobile has been a symbol of freedom and independence. A new government rule that takes effect this fall may change Americans’ perceptions of their carefree mode of transportation.

Beginning September 1, 2014, the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration will require that all new vehicles have an Event Data Recorder, or a Black Box, as some may refer to it.

Some automakers, like GM, began putting EDRs in cars as early as 1996. Learning that the car you drive has been recording your movements might be a bit disconcerting.  Some may even feel their privacy is somehow being invaded.

EDRs measure and record events up to five seconds before a collision, including force of impact, engine speed, vehicle speed, direction, steering input, airbag deployment, safety belt usage, acceleration position and braking status.

The data collected by EDRs is increasingly being used in lawsuits and in high profile motor vehicle accidents. However, obtaining the data may be a tricky endeavor. Law enforcement agencies may have to obtain a search warrant and insurance companies may need a court order, unless the owner consents to the retrieval of the data.

In the near future, the black box data from accident vehicles may allow insurance companies to potentially change drivers’ rates and perhaps the liability the insurance company claims when you are involved in an accident.

The newly mandated rule by NHTSA should be a greater incentive for consumers to practice better and safer driving, making any data collected by a black box to work in their favor in the event of an accident.