Did you have any idea that your car could very well be spying on you from the instant you start it? Very few people do. The devices are called event data recorders (EDR). They usually only save the data for a few seconds at a time, unless you are involved in an accident. Then the data is saved permanently, so events during a crash can be studied.
An EDR is designed to gather information the same way a transponder helps aviation officials from the FAA, NTSA, and other agencies piece together why a jet airliner goes down. This is what news and safety officials are talking about when they discuss an aircraft’s “black box.” A significant percentage of late model vehicles have these devices pre-installed from the factory.
Isn’t it a bit disconcerting that few US drivers realize that such a device has been installed in their vehicle? Starting with 2011 models, automakers are required to tell buyers that a recorder is installed on their cars. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has recently decided that all vehicles built after 2013 must have standardized EDRs that record specific details, such as:
- Change in forward crash speed
- Maximum change in forward crash speed
- Speed the vehicle was traveling
- How far the accelerator pedal was pressed
- Whether or not the brake was applied
- Number of power cycles applied to the EDR at the time of the crash
- Number of power cycles applied to the EDR when the EDR data was downloaded
- Whether or not the driver was using a safety belt
- Whether or not the frontal air bag warning lamp was on
- Number of crash events
- Time between the first two crash events when appropriate
- Whether or not the EDR completed recording
”EDRs can provide information about a crash that can’t be obtained through more traditional investigation techniques,” says a statement on the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) website. ”Police, crash investigators, automakers, insurance adjusters, and highway safety researchers can use this information to analyze what occurred during a crash. The data may help automakers improve occupant restraint systems and vehicle structures.”
Ever a skeptic, one has to wonder how long it will be before claims are denied and premiums are based on information gathered by an EDR. Additionally, there are the legal implications. If the evidence held by event data recorders is admissible in court, this could fundamentally alter legal proceedings involving automotive accidents. Of course, this is not necessarily a negative; however, it is shocking that so few consumers even realize these devices even exist, let alone that they are installed in their current vehicles.