September 1 looming as law mandating car black boxes to take effect

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Black Box

Come September, the NHTSA is going to formally require cars' black boxes to be standard equipment on all new vehicles. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

The federal government is set to require all automakers to install an event data recorder or EDR, also known as a “black box,” in all cars, though in most cars, black boxes are already there. Despite various objections, the devices will become mandatory standard equipment starting September 1.

NHTSA declines delay for cars black boxes

It was reported earlier this year that Congress was going to authorize making “black boxes” standard equipment on all cars, which passed both houses and became law. The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, the trade group for automakers, according to AutoBlog, had petitioned the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to delay implementing the rule, to give them more time to gear up for installing the equipment.

The agency is going ahead with the deadline. As of September 1, for all cars, black boxes are mandatory. However, it doesn’t kick in, according to PC World, until model year 2015.

Most already have them

The devices are basically the same as the units installed in airplanes, which record data in the event of a crash. In the technical literature, they’re called Event Data Recorders or EDRs, but referred to popularly as a “black box,” as they are often clad in durable black plastic.

Interestingly enough, only cars’ black boxes are actually black, according to Wired. EDR units on planes are normally bright orange. In aircraft wreckage, black would be a terrible color because it would be difficult to discern the flight recorder from rubble.

Civil libertarians may be up in arms as some feel that black boxes in cars would give the government an onus to begin recording citizens. However, most cars already have the units. According to Forbes, EDRs first appeared in cars around 1996 and by 2006, according to PC World, about 64 percent of new cars came with them. Some also wonder if it will make easier for auto loan lenders to repossess a car if the owner is a day or so late with their payments, also a potentially valid concern.

Today, about 90 percent of new cars have an EDR, according to AutoBlog.

Good and bad points

People afraid of government monitoring are not simply being paranoid; the United States government has a long history of covert and illegal monitoring of citizens. These are legitimate concerns and bear in mind, every court case which has determined which government actions aren’t appropriate requires the action take place and a citizen’s rights infringed first.

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However, there is a benefit to cars’ black boxes. The devices provide valuable telemetry and other data which can identify a dangerous manufacturer defect that can lead to quicker recalls. It was not via magic Toyota got information about unintended acceleration several years ago; it was through EDR data, according to Wired. It can also determine if a person really was at fault in an accident. If, say, brakes fail and a car plows into another, the data will show it and exculpate the driver whose brakes failed. The NHTSA, according to AutoBlog, has to codify what information will and won’t be collected by September 1.



PC World




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