Vehicles Also Have Black Boxes
Crash information is provided by black boxes in planes, and also in cars!
Nothing is black and white about the black boxes.
Vehicle manufacturers started installing them in the mid-1970s to collect data to help manufacturers make vehicles safer. However, the purpose changed in 1999 when General Motors introduced a recorder that captured information about vehicle speed, RPMs, throttle position and braking to help for investigation purposes (Tim Evans, The Indianapolis Star, May 25, 2014).
The black box is also called an EDR (event data recorder) that gives information both before and after a crash. EDRs are now built into more than 90 percent of new cars, and the government is considering making them mandatory (Martin Kaste, All Tech Considered, March 20, 2013).
Would you like the information from your vehicle's black box to be used against you in insurance investigations, or lawsuits, or even for criminal purposes? It is used in 70 percent of criminal prosecutions in Marion County in Indiana.
Marion County Deputy Prosecutor Tom Hirschauer says that the data “tells us exactly what the vehicle was doing at the exact moment of impact, and in the seconds just prior” (The Indianapolis Star, May 25, 2014).
Where is the black box? The data recorder could be installed in the car's airbag. It could also be a number of electrical components that store data following a crash. If used in court, it is the strongest witness regarding what happened to cause a crash.
There is much concern regarding guidelines and rules for black boxes. Some pertinent questions could include:
- Should car buyers be informed of the black box?
- Should car buyers have the opportunity to opt out of black box use?
- Should black box accident information be personal or public?
- Should black box accident information be used only for scientific improvement of vehicle safety?
- Can police use the black box accident information to determine fault?
- Can lawyers obtain the black box accident information for lawsuits?
- Can insurance companies get/use the black box accident information to give discounts, raise rates or cancel policies?
We used to say that nothing improves one's driving like having a police car following you. We now can say that nothing improves one's driving like knowing that your vehicle's black box is ready to record all the facts that may be used against you if a crash occurs.