Germany's cars to get teched-up as parliament proposes black boxes for vehicles

Germany's cars to get teched-up as parliament proposes black boxes for vehicles

Summary: Germany's parliament has backed a proposal to put black boxes, which gather information from vehicles involved in accidents, in all of the country's new cars.

TOPICS: Software, EU

Black boxes — commonly used in airplanes and ships to help identify the causes of accidents — could soon be making an appearance on the roads of Germany.

The German parliament, the Bundestag, now plans to make such technology mandatory in cars after a study (PDF) commissioned by the European Commission three years ago found the use of electronic data recorders (EDR) can improve road safety.

Germany's cars may soon carry black boxes.

Experience by Berlin police bears this out: since the city's police cars had the boxes installed in 2010, accidents involving the vehicles have dropped by 35 percent.

This convinced the Bundestag to act. "For me the black box in a car is a further step to traffic safety," Gero Storjohann, an MP in Germany's CDU party and a member of its parliamentary committee on road safety, said.

A preliminary motion on the black boxes, put before a Bundestag committee in May, was unanimously accepted by all parties. The German ministry for traffic, the Verkehrsministerium, lent its support to the proposal after details of the motion emerged this week. The German council for road safety — which advises the ministry for traffic — is now in the process of setting up a taskforce to evaluate the black boxes.

Black boxes, also known as event or accident data recorders, gather data from sensors located on the vehicle — for example, information on speed, use of brakes or lights — and store the details in the seconds leading up to and following a crash or accident.

Interest in black boxes for vehicles is widespread in Europe: earlier this year, the European Parliament asked the European Commission to come up with a detailed plan for the introduction of black boxes across the continent before the end of 2012.

However, the boxes have already attracted criticism over fears they may pose a risk to privacy. The German Auto Drivers Association is among the critics of the scheme, labelling it unnecessary and expensive — the group predicts that each black box will cost hundreds of euros. The organisation also believes that the data gathered by the black boxes could be used against drivers by the police and authorities.

Topics: Software, EU

Jakob Jung

About Jakob Jung

Jakob Jung holds a PhD. in history and American Studies. He has been writing for German IT publications for over twelve years for publications including CRN, InformationWeek, ZDNet, Heise, ECMGuide, Database Developer, Mobile Developer and Network Computing. His experience of being historian has been surprisingly good preparation for an IT career as nothing becomes obsolete as fast as the latest gadgets.

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  • As lomng as the data set is kept small enough

    I think it would be a great Idea. It could be used to lower rates of those who are not reckless drivers. By singling out the more aggressive (dangerous) drivers, the rest of us could get lower rates. I believe Progressive has an "Add-on" that sends driving data back to them. Progressive's Snapshot, I believe it's called. The black box data could also be helpful in fighting tickets from corrupt police agencies.
    Troll Hunter J
  • Who is going to pay for these black boxe$

    If they are going to help, let the addition of them in cars be optional.
  • Yay, more big brother in our lives...

    ... and I'm willing to bet that when our Government begins to require these devices in cars, that the government and insurance companies are going to require that you upload data from them once every couple of months.

    No thanks. If I want to collect my driving data, I want to do it willingly and in a way that I can control, that doesn't require an invasion of my privacy.
    • Bet we'd all drive better though...

      So why shouldn't the data be accessible by anyone, and why shouldn't we all drive sensibly? How come I see plenty clowns tanking past the school in my street? They'll be the same clowns keen to keep data private. I'm no angel but theres too many selfish morons on our roads. We don't even hear of kids being run over now... apparently they are involved in 'collisions' and miraculously the car driver is unhurt though shaken. Poor soul. Up the motorway speed limits though, and I'll be happy.
  • Interesting concept

    Mimicking what is found in the big birds that transport us across the skies. But so many details have been left out of this article. Never explained, except by way of intimation, was exactly who uses the data, as well as when and how. Is it scooped up by the police (or insurance companies?) mandatory after each accident? Does the data carry authoritative clout in court? I presume the answers would be yes?

    I also would imagine the recording mechanisms are quite dependable and durable. Now if the authorities wanted to go "all in" they would double up with a CVR [cabin voice recorder] and mic. That way one could check, beyond the vehicle data, whether the parties involved were absentmindedly chatting on cell phones, or distracted by other means, when the infraction occurred.
    • And, of course...

      See if, just before the accident, the driver said, "Hey, Y'all. Hold my beer and watch this."
      Beat a Dead Horse
      • And beyond that

        "Oh baby, don't stop now..." ;)
  • I suppose this explains part of the nebulousness

    "The German council for road safety — which advises the ministry for traffic — is now in the process of setting up a taskforce to evaluate the black boxes."

    Still I would have liked more of an explanation to the questions I raised above based on the findings of the Berlin Police to date.
  • hello Fifth Amendment

    At first there'll be a hat tip to the unreasonable search and seizure and self incrimmination rules in the Constitution. Then they'll come down with this 'driving is a voluntary act, not a right' nonsense they used for implied consent in the case of breathilizers. You'll have implied consent to use and misuse the data in the recorders.

    Consider that in order for the black box to work they'll need GPS data. In other words, your travels will become public information held in a massive government database.

    No thanks.
  • Are all you commenters so unaware?

    Millions of North American cars have had these recorders for years. For years car makers have voluntarily developed and installed recorders.
    And same as mentioned in the article they record just a few seconds before and after an accident.
    The data has been used in court cases to both exonerate and convict drivers.

    And taking effect today, Sept 1, 2012, a mandate by the NHTSA requires all cars produced for North America to have an Event Data Recorder (aka crash recorder)

    A good article ...