The National Transportation Safety Agency has once again put forward a plan to make secure, so-called ‘black box’ technology, mandatory on all vehicles, this time setting a deadline for the inclusion of these devices in all new cars starting in 2014. This technology is very similar to the devices currently in use in all aircraft, although the devices used in automobiles will not include a cockpit voice recorder or anything which records what the driver may or may not have been doing–just the automobile.
Already a great many automobile manufacturers use similar technology as part of the electronic integrated computer controlled environments of their vehicles. These devices have already proved their worth by recording vehicle information such as speed, sudden braking, turns or swerving. The devices only record this data in the last 30 seconds before the crash, so it is not as if the devices are recording every move you have made in your automobile, just the information which might have affected the crash.
Privacy advocates have said these devices are an infringement on personal privacy, but safety advocates say since the device is only recording a brief piece of driving information and then only in the event of a vehicle collision, there is no infringement on personal privacy. This information is usually determine through tactics used by police crash investigation teams. Using ‘black box’ technology there would be an immediate response to attempts to know exactly what happened.
In February the NTSA will allow a brief period for public comment on the issue of mandatory ‘black box’ technology, but it seems unlikely that any argument against the technology will prevent its eventual inclusive in all automobiles. The best advice for people who want information about their driving habits to stay secret beyond 2014 is to avoid having a vehicle collision.