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Car Owners to be Notified of Blackboxes in Vehicle 334

Posted by samzenpus
from the spy-in-the-cab dept.
smooth wombat writes "As a follow-up to this long ago posting, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has passed a resolution requiring car manufacturers to inform buyers if their cars are equipped with Event Data Recorders (EDRs). The new regulation also standardizes what information is to be collected. Car manufacturers must comply with the new regulation beginning in the 2011 model year."
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Car Owners to be Notified of Blackboxes in Vehicle

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  • I like it. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by yagu (721525) * <yayagu.gmail@com> on Monday August 21, 2006 @04:20PM (#15951393) Journal

    One thing I've always feared: some huge speed bump because after some driving incident/accident I'm embroiled in an "I said/you said" recount of the event. I try to be as safe a driver as possible and have managed 30+ accident-free years. But almost every trip is an adventure with crazies on the road every day. This black box technology could hedge my (and others) bets on accurately describing what "went down".

    I don't like the thought someone would be watching me all the time like Big Brother, but on the other hand if I get t-boned, and the other party claims I ran a red light or some other nonsense I like the thought there could be an electronic record showing the other party was traveling way over the speed limit, weaving, slamming brakes, etc. right up to the event.

    It could be a great equalizer for insurance rates. It could even spur better driving in on whole by the general populace (some drivers of course and their negligence is intractable).

    And, as for the breach in privacy, I don't see much demand and/or interest in the type of data described in the article in contexts other than accidents. If you're accident free, why would the data be interesting?

    (Aside: I actually installed a "Car Chip" in my car for personal monitoring. Most notably I was surprised at the frequency of "hard accelerations" -- far more than I'd have guessed. The data was charted against distance, and I was able to "see" where I was "hard accelerating". Interestingly after knowing this, and paying more attention to accelerating I self-modified my habits and the mileage for my car (Civic) increased almost 6%.)

    (NOTE: this doesn't address and/or discuss the notion of tracking movement and travel via mechanisms such as GPS... a whole other ball of wax in privacy discussions.)

    • Re:I like it. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by rkcallaghan (858110) on Monday August 21, 2006 @04:23PM (#15951414)
      This black box technology could hedge my (and others) bets on accurately describing what "went down".

      No, not really. You see, the black box can tell your insurance company that you were going 5 over the limit to pass someone, which could invalidate your claim (you were speeding). It has no idea that the other party was a 30-something on their cell phone with their laptop open, swerving to avoid the teenagers joyriding in the wrong lane with their lights off.

      ~Rebecca
      • No, you missed the GP post's point...
        The blackbox in the idiot's car would indicate his reckless driving.
        • Re:I like it. (Score:5, Insightful)

          by vux984 (928602) on Monday August 21, 2006 @05:02PM (#15951709)
          No, you missed the GP post's point.

          And you missed the counter-argument's point.

          The blackbox in the idiot's car would indicate his reckless driving.

          What if it turns out HIS blackbox shows him driving straight and normal at the speedlimit. (sure he still ran a red light and t-boned you... but the blackbox shows nothing strange)... and YOUR blackbox shows you driving 2km over the limit with a recent swerves when you dodged a few pieces of debris on the road.

          Sure he ran the red light, but your own blackbox paints an unflattering picture of your driving.

          Its a knife that cuts both ways. Some times it will cut both ways at once; sure it might identify the other driver as a weaving/hard braking idiot -- but what if it also shows you were going slightly over the speed limit or had done some recent swerving around? Your insurance company might still nail you with higher rates or reduce their coverage.
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by pete6677 (681676)
            Not that I'm defending this practice, but speeding does not automatically result in an insurance claim being denied. Driving 2 MPH over the limit would never be seen as a reason to assign fault for an accident or deny a claim.

          •   It's lobbyist pandering, is what it is. (get 'em in there before it's regulated they be in there)

              The only real beneficiaries are the lawyers.

            SB
      • Re:I like it. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by ScrewMaster (602015) on Monday August 21, 2006 @05:09PM (#15951759)
        Ultimately, it comes down to who has control of the data. If the police can routinely interrogate these devices without the vehicle owner's permission (much less a warrant) then they are of little value to the consumer. The preliminary OBDIII (On Board Diagnostics III) specifications that I've looked at include the ability for cops (or anyone with the proper equipment) to retrieve information from these things wirelessly and without notifying the driver. I really don't think I like that.

        Frankly, there's a good chance that any such black box that is installed in any car I purchase will suffer the effects of a nearby lightning strike. Or maybe a transient short in the ignition system will take care of the problem. Unfortunately, odds are that this will not be a separate device but simply more memory and firmware in the existing vehicle computer.

        Still ... firmware can be replaced.
        • >Still ... firmware can be replaced.

          Until a law is passed preventing such modifications. Because the recorder functions will most likely be part of the engine control computer, the lawmakers will use concern over tailpipe emissions or something similar to outlaw modified firmware.
          • by dhasenan (758719)
            So, just nudge the flash chip that the computer records to. It's got old data on it, perhaps; I could remove it entirely (and replace it if the car won't function otherwise), or I could leave the data on there after driving carefully for an appropriate distance.
            • And if the car (or you) is unable to drive after the accident?
              • by dhasenan (758719)
                What of it? The flash memory was removed well before anything happened; it's a case of malfunctioning equipment. And it was required in order for the car to run, then I can replace it or make a pacifier (probably a ROM encoded with the contents of the flash chip I removed).
          • Actually, they'll outlaw it right up front. Doesn't mean that such mods won't happen though.
    • And, as for the breach in privacy, I don't see much demand and/or interest in the type of data described in the article in contexts other than accidents. If you're accident free, why would the data be interesting?

      Driving habits could be of a lot of interest to car manufacturers and law enforcement, who could pay garages to secretly extract this information from any such logging device without your knowledge (unless the device is only constantly re-recording the last few seconds rather than keeping a comple

      • by Detritus (11846)
        It only has enough memory to record the data immediately preceding some significant event, like air-bag deployment.
    • by GmAz (916505)
      This 'black box' won't be transmitting all the time. If an accident occurs, law inforcement or your insurance company can inspect the data.
    • by mi (197448)
      This black box technology could hedge my (and others) bets on accurately describing what "went down".

      Are you not concerned, it may lie/break? "He said vs. she said" has the (somewhat dubious) advantage, that neither side is 100% trusted...

      Your box may be off by 15%, but no one will believe you...

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Volante3192 (953645)
      It could be a great equalizer for insurance rates. It could even spur better driving in on whole by the general populace (some drivers of course and their negligence is intractable).

      On a purely selfish reason, I'd like to agree with you. I've mused many times about getting a camera for my car, like police cars, to catch some of these idiots doing some wonderfully graceful moves. I go 65-70 tops on the freeway, and pretty much everyone passes me... going 80...90...100... dodging, swerving, 4-lane changes
    • Discount? (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Alchemar (720449)
      Remeber when you could pay for cable so that you didn't have to watch all the comercials? Remeber when you could get a customer service card and get a discount, instead of needing one to pay just under market value instead of 10% over market value? They might give people a discount on insurance until it is adopted, and then they are going to check the records and everything on there will be another reason to raise your rates. Even if you are a perfect driver, there will be times when you need to accelera
    • Re:I like it. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by DJCacophony (832334) <v0dka&myg0t,com> on Monday August 21, 2006 @05:14PM (#15951789) Homepage
      "If you're accident free, why would the data be interesting?"

      "If you're terrorist free, why would recordings of all your telephone conversations be interesting?"
      "If you're treason free, why would a log of all your internet activity be interesting?"
      "If you're not searching for child porn, why would a database of all your searches/web browsing being released to the general public be interesting?"
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      Reminds me of a joke I heard in a bar a while back- that the NHTSA was to require voice recorders in all trucks. In most of the country, right before a fatal wreck, the most commonly uttered phrase was "Oh shit!", but in Montana the most commonly uttered phrase was "Hold my beer, watch this!"
      • by StikyPad (445176)
        The setup I've always heard is "What's the last thing a redneck says?" as told to me by a self-proclaimed redneck.
  • Good move... (Score:2, Informative)

    by ral315 (741081)
    But what happens when all cars have black boxes, and there's no way to avoid buying a new car with one in it?
    • by peragrin (659227)
      black boxes are designed to be removed, like removable hard drives. Just unplug it. I won't. as having it plugged in would be a bonus. As long as the data stays on the device until an accident. As it can't be used against you when you go for your annual car inspections(for the areas in which that applies).
      • by JonTurner (178845)
        >>black boxes are designed to be removed, like removable hard drives. Just unplug it.

        And because it will almost certainly be integrated into your car's engine management system your car will be reduced to being a fancy pushcart.

        FYI, in all states that I'm aware which requre exhaust emissions tests, they require that the engine computer download it's cache of "check codes" and interacting "normally" with the test computer via the OBD (on board diagnostics) interface. Don't kjnow the format... Challenge
      • by Raul654 (453029)
        But, as some people have found out, it can be subpoenaed by someone suing you and used against you in court.
    • Then only outlaws will have cars without blackboxes, or something like that?
    • by teslar (706653)
      Well, then I guess European imports in crates marked "spares" would become very popular :)
    • Perhaps pull the fuse.

      If there is no separate one, perhaps pulling the anti-lock brake and air bag fuses would work.

      You'd still have normal brakes, you'd lose ABS and air bags, but if as the article says and it is tightly integrated with the above, pulling those fuses may work. No power = no data.
  • A Better System (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Digital Vomit (891734) on Monday August 21, 2006 @04:21PM (#15951397) Homepage Journal
    What also needs to happen, in addition to informing the buyer of the existence of such a recording device in a car, is to have the buyer decide whether or not such a device should be disabled/removed before purchase at no extra cost or liability to the buyer.
    • The rub is this... Insurance. If they feel that having the real information lets them know the actual cause of an accident, and you dont bother to have one running. your rates are going to be going up. If your not doing anything wrong then you have nothing to fear.. So the process simply adds cost on the insurance side of things.

      I'm not a big fan of this level of privacy invasion but their is too much precident for privacy crushing actions that this will likley be mandatory in the near future(7-21 yea

  • by AHumbleOpinion (546848) on Monday August 21, 2006 @04:21PM (#15951400) Homepage
    This changes nothing. Try to get car insurance without agreeing to give your insurance company access on demand.
  • Anyone know if this information will be required to be disclosed to vehicle renters?
  • another new law (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Balthisar (649688) on Monday August 21, 2006 @04:22PM (#15951405) Homepage
    Do we ALSO need a law to indicate that it's illegal to remove my own property from the car and then destroy that property if I'm in an accident? Imagining that it's my fault, that is. It's not evidence of a crime, unless I intentionally caused the accident.

    Are police just entitled to come along and remove it from my car without my permission now? Do they have to ask?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by abscondment (672321)

      If the data in your black box are important, the police will obtain them without your permission in the same way they would obtain the car itself: a search warrant.

      Just because it's "yours" doesn't preclude their obtaining access to it. The data may considered evidence relating to a crime; an accident will involve some form of citation for breaking an obscure traffic law, even if fault is not readily apparent. The data in your box could be considered pertinent, even though the argument for their pertinen

      • And that's why, immediately after purchase of the vehicle, a clip lead should be briefly applied between the black box and the ignition coil.
        • Yes, you should definately do this if you're planning on being criminally at fault in an accident.

          I understand why people might be reluctant to have such a device, but the possibility that it might be used as evidence against you in a case where you have committed a crime is silly. Privacy rights are not supposed to keep you from getting cought committing crimes.

          "If you have nothing to hide, you shouldn't be worried" is just as bad of a justification as, "If you have something to hide, you should be able t
          • by Dare nMc (468959)
            Privacy rights are not supposed to keep you from getting cought committing crimes.

            I disagree,
            The Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution includes the text:

                    No person shall be ... compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself
      • by TubeSteak (669689)
        You're assuming that the police need to ask your permission to nab this data.

        Right now, AFAIK, nobody ever gets their hands on this data except in situations where the Insurance Company is in control of your car.

        That is why we only hear about the black box in relation to serious car accidents, where the car is totalled and (because you're making an insurance claim) is now the property of the Insurance Company.

        I agree with everything the parent says, especially the conclusion.

        P.S. I thought that Asian Import
        • by GooberToo (74388)
          Filing a claim does not make it the property of the insurance company. Agreeing to surrending the car for it to be totaled is completely different than making a simple claim.
    • To all of the /.ers who want to just remove the EDR. It's an integral part of the engine management computer. You can't remove it and have the car continue to function. I predict a future aftermarket business for replacement management computers without the data recording aspects.

      But the answer to your question is no. A new law isn't needed.

      The thing you have to realize is that there are very few "accidents" in traffic situations. There's a reason the police refer to them as "collisions" and not accide
    • by Dare nMc (468959)

      It's not evidence of a crime, unless I intentionally caused the accident.

      or if someone could show that you engaged in some behavior, which society has an interest in preventing. [wikipedia.org]

      So if you broke a law, and leading up to breaking that law you took any avoidable action that would have within reason caused you to break that law...

      I think their would be a strong argument that you couldn't legaly destroy the box, after the moment you knew that your vehicle caused property damage, or injury. So the moment you open

  • by Vengeance (46019) on Monday August 21, 2006 @04:23PM (#15951415)
    After all, the life cycle of a car, beginning with design, is just plain long. They can't just mandate that beginning tomorrow, every car made will have 'future technology 1' embedded. Fine, that makes sense.

    But if this is just about notifying buyers, it should be immediate. There's no need to give GM five years to get out a dealer bulletin and some stickers for the owners manuals.
    • by gral (697468)
      I agree. This was my first thought about this as well. 2011 that is just insane. How about January 2007? It gives them ~6 months. I would hope the car manufactures have better comunication in case of a recall or something.
  • by JonTurner (178845) on Monday August 21, 2006 @04:25PM (#15951429) Journal
    I was telling an attorney friend about EDR's and his response was "really? I suppose that means I can subpoena that information and admit it for evidence. Unless it's ruled self-incrimination..." We spent about an hour discussing and it brought up a whole bunch of interesting questions: Is the information on this machine considered part of a persons "papers or effects" or is all information now property of the government court to be surrendered on demand? Is destroying this device considered tampering with evidence... do I have a right to smash up my own car (computer, books, diary, etc.)? If not, I think this intrudes on my property rights. Where does the court's right to information about me end and my rights to my own property and information begin? Is it safe to say "none of your damned business" any more?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by amliebsch (724858)

      I'm curioust what your attorney friend thought. Here's my take:

      Is the information on this machine considered part of a persons "papers or effects"

      Yes, just the same as, say, a bundle of files in your back seat. Subject to the warrant requirement.

      is all information now property of the government court to be surrendered on demand?

      Of course not.

      Is destroying this device considered tampering with evidence...

      It could be, if you have reason to know that it is probably evidence.

      do I have a right to smash

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by darkmeridian (119044)
      The Fifth Amendment to the American Constitution prohibits a government actor from compelling a person to make self-incriminating statements. Papers and other writings previously authored by a criminal defendant do not constitute such a statement, though it may be self-incriminating. In a recent case, the NY Court of Appeals ruled that tattoos of a criminal defendant can be admitted against him over his objection to prove he subscribed to white supremacist beliefs because such evidence was not a protected s
      • by TubeSteak (669689) on Monday August 21, 2006 @06:24PM (#15952239) Journal
        In this particular case, the argument "if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear" flies pretty well because the information on the device could exculpate the defendant as well.
        That argument NEVER flies very well.

        If the law says I have a right to hide something, then fuck off.
        If the law doesn't, then there is no reason to pull out that asinine argument.

        P.S. "your child or family member" is a great appeal to emotion.
      • by IIH (33751)

        Civil liberties sell great here on Slashdot, but imagine if your child or family member was hit and injured by a guy who was street racing. The prosecution needs to prove speeding or reckless driving to convict the defendant on the most serious charges. Would you say that getting data from a device in that case would be wrong? In this particular case, the argument "if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear" flies pretty well because the information on the device could exculpate the defendant as

    • Is the information on this machine considered part of a persons "papers or effects" or is all information now property of the government court to be surrendered on demand?

      It won't ever belong to you. "Your honor this person is tampering with the car's safety system." Pretty much says it all.

      do I have a right to smash up my own car
      Yes, but don't fsck with the black box. Kind of like people rewinding odometers, it will be forbidden.

      You are lucky to have such thought provoking friends, but I'm afraid the in
    • Your rights to your property, and any information it contains, are at least severly compromised when your property becomes physically entangled with someone else's property as in an accident. It that case 'none of your business' no longer applies because your business and theirs have become one.

      At present these devices are not required, and you may be able to remove the EDR BEFORE an accident if you so choose, depending on how the manufacterer integrated it into the vehicle. Removing or destroying the ED
    • Is it safe to say "none of your damned business" any more?

      The short answer is "No". If you try to say that to an officer of the law, the presumption is that you have something to hide. And that presumption is often correct, but the further presumption is that what you are trying to hide would incriminate you in some way. And that presumption is usually automatic in law enforcement, who feel entitled to know everything about us whether we want them to or not. All of us (and I mean, ALL OF US) have somethi
  • by NineNine (235196)
    As we all know, "black boxes" used in planes are pretty useless because they often fail at key times, failing to record any useful information. Or, at least, that's what the 9/11 Commission would like you to believe...
  • The fact that this is a problem people have to deal with makes me glad I bike to work.

    Of course, I'm also glad that the car my wife and I own is from 1990. We're considering getting a newer car, but only for safety reasons (airbags). As with many software manufacturers, car companies hope their customers will feel compelled to buy a new model every few years. They also don't give much tangible reason to upgrade: my 16-year-old car still gets an average 28mpg.

    With the potential privacy concerns, obvious

    • by MooUK (905450)
      My father's car gets over 50mpg on a good day.

      Well, it did til he rolled it through a stone wall.
  • Well this is crazy! I'm about ready to leave it all behind. I'm going to jump in my car and drive away and no one will be able to find me. Oh.. wait. Damn you technology!
  • by John Jorsett (171560) on Monday August 21, 2006 @05:04PM (#15951720)
    Notification laws aren't that useful. California has one that requires businesses to post warnings of "hazardous substances". Problem is, damned near everything is a hazardous substance under this law. Consequently, every business has one of these placards and nobody pays any attention because if we did, we'd never be able to buy anything. This notification will just end up as another piece of paper in the mound that nobody ever reads and that we sign whenever we buy a car. I suppose it will have the benefit of letting the seller say, "We told you about this" when some dope comes back a few years later, upset that his black box recording ratted him out as going 100 mph just before the crash.
  • by Doytch (950946)
    Not sure if it's the same in the US, but this info is already disclosed in Canada(and I assume in other places), in the car's manual. Has anyone actually read their manual to check if they were actually informed of it before saying how violated they feel?
  • But wait (Score:3, Insightful)

    by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Monday August 21, 2006 @05:27PM (#15951901) Homepage Journal

    Okay, I'm no expert, but I do know a little something about automotive control systems, and my understanding is that part of OBD-II is that vehicles record at least 30 seconds prior to and after any event that bears reporting; this is called snapshot data. In most systems, only one snapshot can be stored, and there are IIRC four levels of criticality; snapshot data is overwritten when a more critical message must be logged. At that point, the last 30 seconds of data is written from RAM and, if processing continues, the next 30 seconds are recorded. One of the things that can trigger this event is if the airbag computer indicates that the airbag has deployed.

    Mind you, this is on 1996 and newer vehicles - and some vehicles went OBD-II before the deadline. I believe (just as an example) that the 1995 Nissan 240SX is among them.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Xanius (955737)
      That's about right. My computer forensics class had the head of one of the largest private forensics companies come in and give a presentation on these things last year. The chips don't store anything outside of ram for more than 30 seconds and when something happens, like the airbag deploying or some other sensor indicates that there's been a collision of some sort,it burns in on the chip so that it can't have anything happen to it short of the chip being destroyed.This gets overwritten later on if somethi
  • A lot of people think that somehow a recording black box producing evidence against you is "self-incrimination" (in case it was your fault in an accident), because the black box belongs to you and is your property. But this completely misunderstands what self-incrimination means.

    Self-incrimination is forcing someone to orally testify against him or herself in questioning or trial -- a compelled confession for example, which in our early (colonial, for example) jurisprudence was unfortunately not a forei
  • Consider the license issues and privacy issues with this software.
    You dont own it, you have a right to use that can be removed,
    they can look at what you are doing, yada yada yada...

    I would bet that you wont own your car for much longer - the
    Licence agreement around this data and these computer systems
    will soon go the way of the software agreements that we put up with.

    The good news is that perhaps one day we may see a GPL car.
  • Just in time for the gas to run out. They can't give me my flying car, but they can give the NSA an event log of my location to crossreference with my phonecalls.
  • by Nom du Keyboard (633989) on Monday August 21, 2006 @06:03PM (#15952142)
    What needs to be required here is that the black box data cannot be released without the owner's signed approval. And that retaliation cannot be taken against a car owner who refuses to release this data. Anything less is not enough.
  • by sinij (911942)
    I think I will install one of these into my Yugo!

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