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“Black Boxes” in Passenger Vehicles: Policy Issues

CRS – “Black Boxes” in Passenger Vehicles: Policy Issues - Bill Canis, Specialist in Industrial Organization and Business; David Randall Peterman, Analyst in Transportation Policy July 21, 2014.

“An event data recorder (EDR) is an electronic sensor installed in a motor vehicle that records  certain technical information about a vehicle’s operational performance for a few seconds immediately prior to and during a crash. Although over 90% of all new cars and light trucks sold in the United States are equipped with them, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is proposing that all new light vehicles have EDRs installed in the future. Under previously adopted NHTSA rules, these devices have to capture at least 15 types of information related to the vehicle’s performance in the few seconds just before and immediately after a crash
serious enough to result in deployment of airbags. EDRs have the potential to make a significant contribution to highway safety. For example, EDR data showed that in several cases a Chevrolet Cobalt’s ignition switch turned the engine off while the car was still moving, causing the car to lose power steering and crash; the data directly contributed to the manufacturer’s decision to recall 2.6 million vehicles. EDR data could also be used, sometimes in conjunction with other vehicle technologies, to record in the few seconds before an accident such data as driver steering input, seat occupant size and position, and sound within a car. The privacy of information collected by EDRs is a matter of state law, except that federal law bars NHTSA from disclosing personally identifiable information. The privacy aspects of EDRs and the ownership of the data they generate has been the subject of legislation in Congress since at least 2004.”

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