NHTSA Wants Black Boxes Made Mandatory in New Cars – But 90 Percent Already Have Them!

By now, you must be aware that there’s no such thing as privacy on the internet. It’s not a conspiracy theory, just the way the medium has evolved.

The funny thing is that a large number of people are willingly disclosing important information about themselves, their lives, almost everything they do in many cases, in social media.

Even if you aren’t one of those people, though, the sad truth is that everything is tracked, recorded and stored somewhere. Now, the NSA, NCIS, CSI or some other agency with a funny acronym may not come knocking on your door but nevertheless it’s all being done without your consent.

What you probably don’t know is that the same thing happens when you drive your car, too.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) will probably bring this to your attention in the next few days as it plans to ask the federal government to make data recorders mandatory in all new vehicles.

No need; automakers have been doing so for years.

When something important happens, for example, when the airbags deploy or a vehicle is involved in an accident, data from the 5-10 seconds prior to the event are automatically preserved in the recorder.

The reasoning behind these “black boxes”, a term borrowed from aircrafts, is that knowing the circumstances under which the event occurred will lead into the development of safer vehicles. Of course they will, but they are also increasingly popping up in lawsuits, criminal cases and high-profile accidents.

For example, Massachusetts Lt. Gov. Timothy Murray claimed that he wasn’t speeding and was wearing his seat belt last year when he crashed a government-owned Ford Crown Victoria. Data recovered from the car’s black box showed that he was doing more than 100 mph (160 km/h) and he hadn’t buckled up.

"Right now we're in an environment where there are no rules, there are no limits, there are no consequences and there is no transparency", Lillie Coney, associate director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center privacy advocacy group told Fox News. "Most people who are operating a motor vehicle have no idea this technology is integrated into their vehicle."

What’s more, making their existence known in the owner’s manuals (which, let’s face it, no one reads when purchasing a vehicle) was made mandatory only three months ago.

"Basically your car is a computer now, so it can record all kinds of information", said Gloria Bergquist, vice president of the Alliance of Automotive Manufacturers. “It helps our engineers understand how cars perform in the real world and we have already put them on over 90 percent of new vehicles without any mandate being necessary”, she added.

Despite that, Bergquist says that the Alliance is opposed to the NHTSA making them mandatory and acknowledges that privacy is a concern: "It's a lot of the same issues you have about your computer or your smartphone and whether Google or someone else has access to the data."

Our take is that since over 90 percent of new cars already have data recorders, the automotive industry itself has -willingly or not- given Big Brother a way into our vehicles long before the NHTSA even thought about the issue.

Benjamin Franklin summed it up better than we ever possibly could more than two centuries ago:

“They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

By Andrew Tsaousis

Story References: Fox News




  1. NHTSA wants a law to govern these Black Boxes installed into cars, a law that is missing right now.
    Or you are going to trust car manufacturers to self-regulate themselves ? :))

  2. I didn't know that, I mean one can expect it since all the required tech is already built in, but still, this is frightening!!

  3. SomeRandomCommenterDecember 08, 2012

    This is why you build your car if you can.

  4. How do we get a list of cars that DONT have them yet? that's what the paranoid in me asks.

  5. Coming up next... mandatory dash-cam.

  6. I vote NO!!!

  7. What's so bad about your car recording whatever is knows - speed, braking application, accellerations, steering angles, distances to other cars, whatever they might be monitoring for the various systems like stability control, adaptive cruise control, ABS etc. - and holding it for a while? What could be better for evidence in crash lawsuits? Unless you are actually in the wrong of course. GPS info is a little more problematical.

  8. Any car without electronic injection I guess. Pre-1990, for sure.

  9. please tell me what car that is in the pic

  10. Consider then the possibility of a three monthly data upload for the purposes of levying some kind of road tax, or maybe fines based on the average number of speed spikes above posted limits based on GPS readings. The issue is where it can be taken once its in. Just look what the DHS has turned into if you think it won't happen.