White House Approves Black Boxes in All New Cars
The White House Office of Management and Budget has cleared the way for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to require black boxes (event data recorders) in all new cars, according to news reports. And in related news, a Colorado company has created what it calls a “tiny black box.”
As David Shepardson writes in The Detroit News, NHTSA’s proposed rule will increase the percentage of light duty autos required to have black boxes from 91.6% today to 100%. But as Kurt Ernst writes in The Christian Science Monitor, black boxes in cars are nothing new. General Motors first began capturing data as early as 1990, Ernst writes, and the black boxes became standard in GM cars during the 1995 model year. Many car makers — including General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co., Toyota, and Mazda Motor Co. — already include them in all their vehicles, Shepardson notes.
Different automakers collect different data, Shepardson writes. For example, he notes, in 2009, not all Toyota EDRs recorded both pre- and post-crash data. But by the end of 2011, all Toyota and Lexus vehicles included EDRs that can record both.
“Beginning with 2013 vehicles, the black boxes will measure 15 specific values in a common format, making it easier for first responders and crash investigators to access and interpret the data,” Ernst writes.
Shepardson reports that the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers (the trade group representing Detroit’s big three automakers, plus Toyota Motor Corp and Volkswagen AG) is concerned about driver privacy. He quotes AAM spokeswoman Gloria Bergquist:
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.
The black boxes will help improve auto safety features, as Shepardson writes, quoting Lynda Tran, the NHTSA spokeswoman:
‘NHTSA remains committed to proposing a standard in the coming months that will help save lives by ensuring both automakers and the agency have the necessary data to make continued improvements in vehicle safety.’
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.’
In a related news item, Cartasite, a company whose corporate headquarters are in Denver, featured its vehicle monitoring and driving safety systems recently at the OSHA Oil and Gas Safety Conference in Dallas, TX. An article on The Auto Channel says that Cartasite’s ROVR is a “tiny black box” that plugs into the OBD port next to the steering column on every car and truck built since 1996, and that measures subtle movements of the vehicle that reveal distracted or aggressive driving patterns.
According to the article:
Cartasite developed sophisticated algorithms that translate all of this data into a scorecard which is emailed to each driver every week. The scorecard is easy to understand and provides useful insights into changes to consider making that will save fuel, reduce emissions, and reduce crash risk.