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NHTSA to require 'black box' for vehicles; raises privacy concerns

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is expected to declare that all vehicles must contain an event data recorder, known colloquially as a "black box."

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is expected to declare next month that all vehicles must contain an event data recorder, known colloquially as a "black box," according to Wired.

The device (not unlike those found in aircraft) records vehicle activity and, in the event of a collision, provides clues to what happened to law enforcement officials, insurance companies and the automakers themselves.

While few dispute the inherent value of the device -- which cannot be deactivated -- the mandate raises privacy concerns with regard to the government's ability to monitor drivers' activity.

Keith Barry reports:

The pending mandate looks to some like a gross overreach of government authority, or perhaps an effort by Uncle Sam, the insurance industry and even the automakers to keep tabs on what drivers are doing. But if you’re driving a car with airbags, chances are there’s already one of these devices under your hood.

How much it affects you depends upon where you live and what data points it records. How much it will affect you in the future may depend on a new set of standards that spell out exactly what data is collected and who can access it.

If you own a recent vehicle from General Motors, it's likely that you already have a Bosch EDR under the hood, no doubt assisting the company's OnStar service in diagnosing problems in the event of a crash.

Among the data collected: crash severity, seat belt status, brake application, steering input and more.

The technology allows insight into both how the driver and the vehicle reacted to an event; at scale, insurance companies can treat claims with more accuracy and automakers can unearth potential defects within the system.

Regarding privacy, there's plenty of potential legal red tape, which I urge you to read in Barry's report. But it's clear that if the car is becoming a computer, we'll soon run into the same hotbed issues that first arose with the World Wide Web.

Automotive Black Boxes, Minus the Gray Area [Wired]

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com