Federal regulators are proposing that new automobiles sold in the United States after September 2014 come equipped with black boxes, or event recorders, that chronicle everything from how fast a vehicle was traveling, the number of passengers when you take off your seat belt when you slam on your brakes and even a car’s location.
Many automakers have voluntarily installed the devices and they are already in over 90 percent of cars. Right now, these black boxes help automakers find defects and provide a record of what happens seconds before an auto accident occurs.
Currently, only thirteen states have passed laws on this issue offering privacy protection, however, the new proposal would give government agencies access to this information. According to the National Traffic Safety Agency (NTSA), the primary use of the black boxes will be 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.
This new proposal has been met with many complaints from privacy advocates who demand more regulation on who gets access to the information and what they are allowed to do with it. They argue that the information recorded could be used against a driver in court and could be used to tax drivers. Furthermore, the data could be sold to auto-insurance companies for risk evaluation. None of these outcomes benefit drivers. There are also questions about how long a black box should retain event data, who owns the data, can a motorist turn off the black box and can the authorities get the data without a warrant.
While the black boxes would provide subjective data that could possibly improve safety and eliminate “he said, she said” problems after an accident occurs, there are still some lingering issued that need to be resolved. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration wants to hear your comments by February 11 on its proposal mandating them in all vehicles.