Privacy and Safety Concerns Face Off in Proposed Black Box Law
Event data recorders (EDRs), often called black boxes, have been used in planes for years. Black boxes help trace the events that took place before a major mechanical or electrical flaw leading to serious or deadly crashes.
The purpose of the black box is to record vital information about the crash in case the pilot does not survive to give that information. This technology has helped aircraft makers and pilots alike to understand some of the most common causes of crashes. This helps prevent future accidents.
Black Boxes in Vehicles
Car crashes are common. In fact the average driver will be in a car crash before reaching the age of 34. About ten million car accidents happen every year, with two million people injured. Three out of every 1,000 car accidents involved a death in 2009.
Although the rate of people killed in car accidents is lower, the overall number of car accidents is much higher. This has left the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) looking for a new law that would force car makers to include event data recorders, or black boxes, in all new light cars and trucks. These units would record important data so crashes could be examined the same way investigators do in planes.
Would the Installation of EDR in Vehicles be an Invasion of Privacy?
One of the major public concerns of this proposal being passed into regulation is the aspect of privacy. Some people feel that having a black box in their car would allow for the inappropriate collection of data which can then be misused. It is very important to many consumers that manufacturers not be able to access the data on an automobile’s black box without the permission of that consumer or, in the event of their death, a family member.
Although some people are up in arms over the idea of black boxes in cars, some of the biggest car makers are already using the technology. Toyota, Mazda, GM and Ford already include event data recorders in all the new cars they make.
What are the Privacy and Cost Concerns?
Moving forward with laws on black boxes in new cars, the government needs to find out how to best protect the privacy of drivers while keeping true to the law. A law already passed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration details the type of data that can be collected with black box technology. New laws that put black boxes in every car would not change the type of information EDRs collect.
If the new law passes, the rules on installing black boxes in new cars will begin September 1, 2014. Some car buyers are already fighting it. They worry the black boxes will drive up the price of cars. But the average cost to install a black box in a car will cost only $20. Compared to the price of a car, the cost is nothing.