Does your car have a ‘black box’?

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I came across an interesting item in Detroit News, where they reported that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is expected to finalize a long-awaited proposal to make event data recorders (EDRs or black boxes) standard on all new vehicles.

In 2010, Congress considered requiring EDRs in all vehicles by legislation. However, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers – the trade group representing Detroit’s Big Three automakers, plus Toyota Motor Corp and Volkswagen AG – said the government needs to take into account driver privacy.

“Event data recorders help our engineers understand how cars perform in the real world but looking forward, we need to make sure we preserve privacy.  Automakers do not access EDR data without consumer permission, and any government requirements to install EDRs on all vehicles must include steps to protect consumer privacy,” said spokeswoman Gloria Bergquist.

NHTSA says the “rulemaking to mandate EDRs across the entire light-vehicle fleet could contribute to advancements in vehicle designs, and advanced restraint and other safety countermeasures.”  However, many manufacturers already include them in all vehicles, including General Motors, Ford, Toyota and Mazda.

In May 2010, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers endorsed making EDRs mandatory in all vehicles, but expressed concerns that some in Congress wanted more elaborate and expensive ones than are available, despite their having been in use for 20 years.

For example, GM began widely installing the predecessor version of today’s event data recorders in vehicles in the 1990 model year, and they became standard equipment in light-duty vehicles in the 1995 model year.

So to be perfectly frank, it looks to me that the NHTSA are flogging the horse that is already dead.  However, I have to also admit I did not know that these black boxes were already installed in almost every vehicle already.