Coming Soon To Your New Car: A Black Box Data Recorder

April 20, 2012
First Scene Car Blackbox Traveling Data Recorder

First Scene Car Blackbox Traveling Data Recorder

Last week, we told you about a proposal from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that would require brake-override systems on new vehicles. But there's more change afoot in D.C.: according to Mashable, legislation has passed in the U.S. Senate that would mandate the installation of black box data recorders too, beginning with the 2015 model year.

The exact verbiage can be found in Section 31406 of S.B. 1813*, and it goes something like this:

"Not later than 180 days after the date of enactment of this Act, the Secretary shall revise part 563 of title 49, Code of Federal Regulations, to require, beginning with model year 2015, that new passenger motor vehicles sold in the United States be equipped with an event data recorder that meets the requirements under that part."

While the devices would clearly benefit law enforcement agencies and insurance companies, they're also meant to help NHTSA evaluate customer complaints about specific vehicles. For example, data recorders could've cut through some of the confusion and panic surrounding 2010's Toyota/Lexus recall fiasco. (Though we're not sure that the floormat issue would've been caught with black boxes.)

Our take

Black boxes are already being tested on European cars. From where we sit, though, there are at least two major hurdles facing the installation of data recorders on American vehicles: privacy and cost.

The Senate bill addresses the former pretty clearly, stating that owners and lessees have sole ownership of their black box data, unless (a) the owner/lessee consents to share it, (b) it's subpoenaed by a court, or (c) there's a life-threatening accident, like a collision.

Cost is a different matter. The bill simply says that within two years, the Secretary of Transportation must report to Congress on the cost of the data recorders, but by that time, the 2015 model year will be mere months away. Even if the recorders are discovered to be cost-prohibitive, workers at factories around the globe will already be installing them. We suppose NHTSA will have to cross that bridge when it comes to it.

Of course, for any of this bill to pan out, it'll have to pass the House too. Mashable thinks that's likely to happen, but given the state of Capitol Hill these days, we're slightly less certain.

Take a look at the news clip below and let us know: do you think mandating data recorders is a great idea, a terrible idea, or somewhere in-between? 

* The entire bill is a really interesting read, if you've got nothing better to do on a Friday.

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