Automobile black boxes are similar to the airline black boxes that most are familiar with. While airliners carry both a cockpit voice recorder and an event data recorder, the NTSA only wants the latter, a device that can everything from how fast your car was traveling, the number of passengers it was carrying, and even its location.
The idea of a mandatory black box is -- of course -- related to safety. Such black boxes could be key in the case of mysterious "unintended acceleration events," unknown fires, and more. Unlike the black boxes in aircraft, the automotive event data recorders would record data -- for approximately 30 seconds -- during “trigger events” such as during rapid acceleration, sudden braking, swerves, etc.
an announcement in the Federal Register. (.pdf), the data is to be used by manufacturers and regulators “primarily for the purpose of post-crash assessment of vehicle safety system performance.”
Translation: the data will help accident investigators figure out what happened, a la "C.S.I."
The PDF goes further, saying:
EDR data are used to improve crash and defect investigation and crash data collection quality to assist safety researchers, vehicle manufacturers, and the agency to understand vehicle crashes better and more precisely. Additionally, vehicle manufacturers are able to utilize EDR data in improving vehicle designs and developing more effective vehicle safety countermeasures.However, privacy advocates warn that some might see this as an opportunity use the data for marketing or other such uses. Lillie Coney, associate director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center said,
EDR data can also be used by Advanced Automatic Crash Notification (AACN) systems to aid emergency response teams in assessing the severity of a crash and estimating the probability of serious injury before they reach the site of the crash.
You should not think of this as being an opportunity to sell data to auto-insurance companies for risk evaluation. That’s a real possibility. Data is valuable.EPIC wants the data anonymized, which makes sense. Such a step is not really necessary in an airliner, which does not belong to a driver or drivers.
invented the black box (also shown). Notably, black boxes are red, not black, so that they can be found more easily.
He was a research scientist at the Aeronautical Research Laboratories in Melbourne, Australia from 1952 - 1983; ironically, his father was killed in a plane crash in 1934.
In 1953, Warren was involved in the investigation of the crash of the world's first jet airliner, the de Havilland Comet. There were no witnesses and no survivors.
Warren built the first flight data recorder in 1956. He died in 2010.
Obviously, with technological advances, it was only a matter of time before black boxes became part of the automobile. As noted above, some manufacturers already include such data recorders. The NTSA is seeking public comments on its proposal by Feb. 11, 2014; comments can be submitted here.