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Mandatory Automotive Black Boxes May Be On the Way 619

Attila Dimedici writes "The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is expected to announce a new regulation requiring all vehicles to contain a 'black box.' Not only that, but the devices would be designed to make it difficult (possibly illegal) to modify what information these devices collect or to disable them even though the courts have ruled that the owner of the vehicle owns the data. The courts have also ruled that authorities may access that data (to what degree and whether a warrant is necessary depends on the state)."
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Mandatory Automotive Black Boxes May Be On the Way

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  • I agree (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 24, 2011 @08:25AM (#36226524)

    As long as the black box is offline and has at most 1 hour memory, I definitely agree. Useful to understand what happened in case of accidents, especially to prosecute those who cause accidents by speeding.

  • Not a fan (Score:2, Interesting)

    by kannibal_klown ( 531544 ) on Tuesday May 24, 2011 @08:27AM (#36226534)

    First off, it being illegal to disable a part on my car? Is it making it safer or reducing pollution? Then why should removing it be illegal if it's my car?

    I can understand keeping your engine/power at certain levels, keeping pollution to a minimum, and keeping your lights/blinkers in a certain condition.

    But why should I be forced to leave a black-box on my car if it's just going to be used retroactively to bite me in the *behind* in case of an accident.

    Particularly since I have personal experience with a car's onboard computer acting screwy and recording the wrong information from my accelerator.

  • Motor Law (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Lectoid ( 891115 ) on Tuesday May 24, 2011 @08:33AM (#36226574)
    Looks like it's time to store away my red barchetta up at my brothers farm. Maybe someday my son will get to drive it.
  • I'm sorry Dave (Score:5, Interesting)

    by definate ( 876684 ) on Tuesday May 24, 2011 @08:45AM (#36226702)

    I'm sorry Dave, I can't let you do that.

    But on a more serious note. What if the devices function was central to the motors operation. You know a lot of your motor is computer controlled these days.

    Additionally, if they become ubiquitous and are seen as a "flawless device which is on the whole tamper proof", regardless of the reality, if your device is faulty, that may be entered into evidence in a trial against you, as evidence of your guilt. This might satisfy mens rea, instantly, and might even be secondary evidence (forget the proper name) of actus rea. Though, traffic violations in many countries already immediately satisfies mens rea, and so it wouldn't help much there.

    I don't like where it's going. Especially with regards to Tom Tom, iPhone GPS, and similar data, also being used, while shows like CSI lead people to believe that this data is perfect evidence which can't be faked.

    This is not good news. Though, it would make a nice black market for older cars, which don't or couldn't have them installed.

  • by drolli ( 522659 ) on Tuesday May 24, 2011 @08:48AM (#36226728) Journal

    this is something the judges in the court have long asked for. After an accident its difficult to establish howfar the accident was caused by the behavior of driver or circumstances - e.g. - did the driver go 150km/h for 6h without a break or did he feel compelled by somebody driving 1m to his rear end to go faster just at the location of the accident? I also think its ok to confiscate the record if the driver was caught speeding or stopped in a control because its suspected that he drove to long (a mechanical recorder to prevent speeding/going without a break is mandatory for trucks in Germany, and in general the experiences seem to be quite good).

    What would *not* be ok would be any function where the police can ask "list all drivers who did this or that". There is no way to prevent this from being used to track people, e.g. by setting up a 50cm long speed regulated zone in the database to get all driver passing this point.

    The mandatory things would be:

    *encryption, where the keys are stored in a way that they can be only recomposed either from the owners/driver (the driver can e.g. insert an electronic license) keyring (to defend himself), or from several institutions agreeing and providing the key for a specific case.

    *a legal framework which highly discourages institutions from even trying to abuse this data

    *no network connection of the device. The memory should be a removable part, which is secured by a normal lock/seal. Implementations which do not contain the data only in this removable part should be forbidden.

    *the only normally accessible interface should be a port used to set the currently used license (this is, downloading a public key from it).

  • by Tomahawk ( 1343 ) on Tuesday May 24, 2011 @08:57AM (#36226800) Homepage

    Just like in an airplane, I think a black box device is a great idea. Far to many accidents occur with no witnesses that this will give an opportunity to work out what went wrong (why were there no skids, how fast were they going, where the bulbs in the headlights working).

    For people who are safe drivers, again there is no problem. Yes, we all drive a bit over the speed limit all the time - part of the whole 'keeping your eyes on the road' thing we are expected to do means we can't drive permanently looking at the speedometer to ensure we don't just sneak over the limit. But many accidents are caused by drivers driving excessively over the limit, and if I'm involved in an accident with someone like that, I like the idea that I can point to my black box data and say 'see, I was 2km/h over the limit, whereas they were 45km/h over the limit'. It'll protect me and put the blame on those who were actually responsible.

    Which means that they have to be tamper-proof or the just can't be admissible.

    So, so long as they are used only in the purpose of an accident and proving fault, I have no problem with them.

    In the case of a Big Brother type situation, there I _do_ have a problem.

    But I'm try to remain optimistic that the Big Brother element won't be present.

    Oh, also, I want to be able to read the data myself at any time! It would be a great way to learn about your own driving habits, what causes fuel use to go up, am I subconsciously sitting at a red light with my foot depressing the throttle, etc. With GPS, I can track everywhere I've been (but this does tend to imply Big Brother stuff, so no GPS please).

    Store everything on the box, but only store a certain amount. If it's to be use for crash analysis, how much data is needed? An hour? A day? A week? more data allows an investigator to analyse driving patterns and behaviour ("this guy always speeds", or "this guy has no habit of speeding - did his foot slip?")

  • by Bob the Super Hamste ( 1152367 ) on Tuesday May 24, 2011 @09:03AM (#36226850) Homepage
    Well 2 of the 3 of my vehicles are old enough were they don't have data recorders, all though one of them isn't currently drivable as it is undergoing a full restoration. The article mentions vehicles from the early 90's as having data recorders which doesn't surprise me as that was when OBD I [] was really becoming standard and being used to its fullest. In 96 there was the switch to OBD II [] which further expanded the electronic diagnostics on vehicles. If the government goes ahead with this plan eventually I could see them making it illegal to transfer ownership of a vehicle that doesn't have these data recorders, or insurance companies making insuring vehicles without them extremely expensive.
  • Re:Not a fan (Score:5, Interesting)

    by limaxray ( 1292094 ) on Tuesday May 24, 2011 @09:25AM (#36227058)

    Simply because you do not own the roads, you do not clean up the mess and you don't have to pay for all the costs of hospitalisation, rehabilitation and permanent disability. It's called vehicle registrations and drivers licence, don't like it, walk or take public transport.

    Neither does the federal government. Roads are owned by state and local governments. The clean up is usually done by the local government. The insurance that I pay for pays for the expenses that result, and if I'm at fault, both my insurance company and myself are liable for damages.

    Motor vehicle transportation, including licensing and registration, has always been a state issue - so why is it acceptable for a group of unelected federal bureaucrats to pass a decree that would greatly implicate the privacy for the majority of the population? Where do they derive their authority? Do you think something like this would actually go anywhere if they tried to enact it by legislation?

    Furthermore, is there a real problem that this solves, or is it just a solution in search of a problem? Will this really provide that much more useful data that can't be determined through traditional means (aka measurements and physics)? I just see this being too susceptible to abuse - ie police scanning impounded cars as part of their 'inventory inspection' and writing additional summons for what they find.

  • Re:I'm sorry Dave (Score:4, Interesting)

    by PReDiToR ( 687141 ) on Tuesday May 24, 2011 @09:28AM (#36227088) Homepage Journal
    The problem with old cars is that our (UK) government is paying a premium for scrapping them.

    We have an imported Eunos Roadster (aka Mk1 Mazda MX-5/Miata). It cost us ~£1,000 and is a lovely little car. Clean and tidy, fairly rust free and problem free running gear and engine.
    Our government would give us more than the car is worth (with inflation) to keep it for a year and them scrap it against the price of a new car with no soul, no history, a black box, better brakes, more efficient engine and proper crash test safety.

    Do not want! I want to be able to drive this dangerous expensive to run little piece of history and love it. I understand what they want, but I want my kids to be able to buy cars like this too.
  • by torgis ( 840592 ) on Tuesday May 24, 2011 @09:47AM (#36227260) Journal

    Holy shit, thank you for posting that and saving me the trouble of writing it up myself. I live in Michigan and drive to Detroit every day from the suburbs, and I can say for a certainty that I encounter assholes driving just above the speed limit in the passing lane on a daily basis. Most of them never move over to let me pass, so I'm forced to pass them on the right. Speed limit is 70mph for a good portion of my commute, yet in light traffic I still find people going 60-65mph in the left lane while people pass them on the right going 80. It's stupid, arrogant, and unsafe, yet perfectly legal. Worst of all though are the holier-than-thou drivers like the parent above that feel as if they need to police the traffic by trying to "slow everyone down" - driving the speed limit in the left lane. I used to work with a woman who did this all the time and talked about it like she was doing everyone a favor. She didn't think anyone needed to go over 70mph, so she'd drive 70 in the left lane and prevent people from passing her by matching speed with the cars next to her. Just hearing her stories was enough to make me want to gouge her eyes out with a hot poker.

    That video was, on one hand, interesting in the sense that most people do indeed drive at least slightly faster than the speed limit. On the other hand, it infuriated me seeing them create that rolling roadblock and force all of the people behind them to drive at whatever speed they decided the group should go. Trident to the heart may have not have been a bad idea.

    Oh, and for the record, whoever did the editing on that video should have their fingers removed with a bolt cutter so they may never edit another video, ever.

  • by Kamiza Ikioi ( 893310 ) on Tuesday May 24, 2011 @10:15AM (#36227568)'s called a smartphone. I use SpeedView to keep a permanent GPS record of all my driving, FuelLog to track my MPG, AutoBoy Blackbox to actually video record driving and automatically record crashes and call 911.

    I voluntarily WANT this whenever I drive. I'm a great driver. Other people are idiots and assholes. And anytime I want, I'll post your bad driving on Youtube along with your license plate number. Also, I've had a cop give me a ticket for doing 65 in a 55, and I was actually doing 45 (I didn't even know I could ! Never again.

    We don't need mandatory black boxes for idiots. There are enough of us good drivers would will be recording all of you bad drivers voluntarily. I do it for the lulz AND the $$$ when I sue the next guy who crosses 3 lanes and causes me to be in a multicar pile up.

    Argue what you want about mandatory boxes in the FUTURE, I've got you on camera NOW, lmao.

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