The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recently announced that it plans to make event data recorders, aka the “black boxes”, mandatory on all new cars.
As of yet, no new law pertaining to data recorders has been passed, only proposed. Many questions started swirling about the ramifications of the mandate, and we’d like to take the opportunity to shed some light on the topic as best we can.
First of all, most cars manufactured since the mid-‘90s already have included data recorders. The vast majority of GM products, including Chevy and Cadillac brands, have data recorders installed. Other manufacturers include Ford and Toyota.
You should be able to check your owner’s manual to see if a data recorder is installed on your vehicle. If there is no data recorder, this is usually noted as well.
A data recorder in a car is not the same thing as the airplane “black box”. The automotive data recorder keeps information 4 or 5 seconds before a crash, while the black box stores hours of information in multiple formats, including recorded audio and mechanical data.
The data-recorders are designed to store valuable information after crashes, such as speed, braking, steering, seat belt use, and air bag deployment. This information is analyzed to create safer cars, safer roads, and provide information to help influence safer driving habits.
The data recorder does not transmit information; it only stores the data in an internally for later use.
Considering that most new cars already feature a data recorder, the proposed mandate would only affect a small percentage of the auto industry.
The NHTSA has been mulling a mandate for years, and any proposed law would not go into effect until 2014.
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