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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 @05:20PM (#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.)

  • A Better System (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Digital Vomit (891734) on Monday August 21, 2006 @05:21PM (#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.
  • another new law (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Balthisar (649688) on Monday August 21, 2006 @05:22PM (#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?
  • by JonTurner (178845) on Monday August 21, 2006 @05:25PM (#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:I like it. (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 21, 2006 @05:38PM (#15951532)
    So how does the blackbox records what traffic signal was there? You can run red light at 5mph and get tboned by someone going 25mph within speed limit weaving and slaming on the brakes.
    It's a stoopid and dangerous idea to use this blackboxes in a court.
  • Re:I like it. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Volante3192 (953645) on Monday August 21, 2006 @06:00PM (#15951693)
    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 at once... And if the boxes radioed back, compared to my pithy 5, I'll be on the low end of the graph and laugh as THEY get slammed with suddenly exponentially larger premiums.

    But, as much as I'd like this to work the way I want it to, I've learned that there's no idea so good, so flawless, so deliciously perfect, that can't be twisted, mangled and misinterpreted with a little corporate and government fingering. So rather than a bait and switch, I'll stay against it and just hope that the CHP would get a bigger presence and start ticketing more.
  • by Loconut1389 (455297) * on Monday August 21, 2006 @06:08PM (#15951753)
    while totally irrelevant, it lead to an interesting thought... the data in the recorder is a unique pattern generated by the drivers purposeful actions- eg the data was explicitly designed by the driver and therefore is automatically copyrighted on their behalf..

    now perhaps that wouldn't fly in court, but it's an interesting thought.
  • Re:But wait (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Xanius (955737) on Monday August 21, 2006 @06:48PM (#15952052)
    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 something else happens to cause it to burn in again. They hook it up to a computer and read the data,which usually includes speed,pressure on the breaks,if the headlights were on, which systems in the car had a warning light on(if any) prior to the accident,pretty much anything useful to find out what happened during the accident. Insurance companies or any other company for that matter, hardly use these because the guy that came in said that his company charges something like fifty thousand to get the information off of it, only in extreme cases will this be used. Extreme being the insurance company being close to handing out atleast double the amount it would cost, so that they can prove my customer wasn't liable and I don't have to pay.
  • Re:I like it. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by vux984 (928602) on Monday August 21, 2006 @09:46PM (#15952918)
    If you're speeding then don't say you weren't, and the black box won't be used against you.

    Gotcha... tell them you were speeding up front so they don't even have to look at the black box before assigning you some fault. (And perhaps writing you a speeding ticket; after all you confessed.)

    The parent clearly said he was a safe driver.

    What exactly does that mean? He never speeds?

    What's safer: driving 5mph above the speed limit with traffic, or driving 5mph below* the speed limit (and thus 12+mph below the average speed of traffic)?

    Hint: driving with traffic, unless it is driving inappropriately fast is safer.

    * you'd have to drive around 5mph below to ensure that you never speed. If you tried to drive right at the speed limit you would still vary 2 or 3 mph due to grades, turns, traffic, etc. So to ensure you "never speed" you actually have to set your target a few mph below the limit. And doing 52-58 in a 60 when traffic is running at 65-70 *is* hazardous.
  • by JesseMcDonald (536341) on Monday August 21, 2006 @10:34PM (#15953097) Homepage

    i don't think that argument would fly, but if it's a unique expression of the owner would it not also be self-incrimination?

    I would argue that any unpublished recording or document should be considered equivilent to the memory of the person who made it; just as one cannot be forced to testify against oneself (divulge one's memories as evidence against oneself), one should not be forced to divulge private (audio, video, data) recordings that one has made. Such will undoubtably become even more important as we begin to develop ever more effective electronic (and possibly cybernetic) aids to memory, and as our technology for decoding the neural patterns in the human mind improves.

    Perhaps one day we might discover a way to read a person's memory directly; will this technology be used to circumvent our laws against self-incrimination? What if the memories are encoded, not in human neural tissue, but rather in an electronic implant? Why should there be any difference? And if reading an electronic implant is considered self-recrimination, then why would an external memory device be any different? On the other hand, if one can subpoena the blackbox in the defendent's car, or the contents of the defendent's PDA or laptop, then what makes the defendent's biological memories special? Had we the technology, would it be right to submit the defendent's own memories as evidence? That would make a mockery of our laws against self-recrimination -- and yet we do the same today by seizing and entering into evidence the private documents and recordings of the defendant.

    No offence is truly committed when the defendant is demonstrated guilty, provided that the infringement of the defendant's rights does not exceed the crime itself. However, should the defendant not be demonstrated guilty, then the infringement is entirely unjustified, and those responsible should be open to countersuit by the (presumably innocent) former defendant. This would go a long way toward curbing abuse of power in carrying out justice -- as would the addition of a requirement that the prosecutor be the victim of the crime (or the victim's appointed representative, but not the government), with clear (though not necessarily precisely measurable) damage as the basis for restitution (and possibly retribution; this is rather more controversial).

  • by nephillim (980798) on Tuesday August 22, 2006 @12:24AM (#15953480)
    I worked for a lab that did the automated testing of airbag controllers and though you are all jumping to the "Evil" conclusion (and putting on tinfoil hats) this is really not the case. Though I will concede these records stay arround for use if some really serious accident were to occur, and some insurance agency with really deep pockets wanted to get the evidence, it could... but that is not why these are in the airbag controller in the first place (that is where the EDR or event data recorder lived on the vehicles I tested controllers for lived) The reason these are in your vehicle is actually very simple. Think of all the scenarios that occur in a car. Gravel raod, railroad tracks, potholes, ect... you do not want your airbags going off just because you hit a minor bump in the road, or even if you "crash" but at a very low speed (like backing into a pole). The conditions you want to fire the airbags is a very precise set of circumstances. With newer cars that have curtian and many other airbags too, it also wants to take into account "is the car upside down" and such. In order to make the most accurate assessment possible, and thus have the least false positives possible, as much data must be recorded for consideration as possible.... RPM, Orientations, TIRE PRESSURE, ... the list is long. The catch is only 10 seconds or so is usually kept.... just enough for a crash/pre-crash record.... I know this is slashdot, and we (yes me too) usually assume it is the government/big brother watching and trying to control us, but for a change, this is nothing but trying to make cars as safe as can be. It just so happens a side effect of this is allowing insurance agencies to get a better glimpse of what was really going on... but really, is honesty ever really a bad thing? If somebody rear ends you, and said they were going 25mph, and your accelerometer/ their EDR said they were going 50mph wouldn't you want that to be known by the judge? If not... enjoy you will probably be enjoying your airbags a lot more if you live on bumpy roads or near train tracks.
  • Re:I like it. (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 22, 2006 @05:42AM (#15954210)
    dont forget about the proposed odb-iii spec of remote shutdown. its 'optional' last i checked, but ive heard that it gets bundled in when you get the 'automated checkup' features.

    and an ECU swap was quite possible in ODB-I/II, but it seems all new cars are controlled by a pethera of computers now, taking out the black box while still keeping everything going OK is going to be a MAJOR undertaking.

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