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Car Owners to be Notified of Blackboxes in Vehicle 334

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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  • by AHumbleOpinion ( 546848 ) on Monday August 21, 2006 @05:21PM (#15951400) Homepage
    This changes nothing. Try to get car insurance without agreeing to give your insurance company access on demand.
  • Re:I like it. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rkcallaghan ( 858110 ) on Monday August 21, 2006 @05:23PM (#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.

  • by Vengeance ( 46019 ) on Monday August 21, 2006 @05:23PM (#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 AHumbleOpinion ( 546848 ) on Monday August 21, 2006 @05:24PM (#15951421) Homepage
    5 years of collecting any kind of data we want, without telling anyone!

    If the data is a loop of recent events and data is not leaving your car how are they watching you?
  • Re:Renters? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by AHumbleOpinion ( 546848 ) on Monday August 21, 2006 @05:29PM (#15951465) Homepage
    Anyone know if this information will be required to be disclosed to vehicle renters?

    The presence of the recorder will be disclosed in the fine print you don't read. Duh. :-)

    The "telemetry" of your drive will be disclosed to the rental car company (the car's owner - seems fair) in preparation for computing you bill.
  • Re:I like it. (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 21, 2006 @05:32PM (#15951491)
    I don't like it.

    I go racing (on a track) and I don't want them to pull up the top speed of my car and try to say I did this on a public road. Who knows what data it collects but I'm sure the top speed is probably one of the bits.

    Wouldn't it be great if your insurance company found out you were doing 180mph? Sure would.
  • by AHumbleOpinion ( 546848 ) on Monday August 21, 2006 @05:34PM (#15951501) Homepage
    ""5 years of collecting any kind of data we want, without telling anyone!""

    "If the data is a loop of recent events and data is not leaving your car how are they watching you?"

    Because in the event of an accident the police can easily download the events off the black box and use it against you in court. It's happened several times already.

    That's not the collecting 5 years of data. the statement that I questioned. Secondly, I bet you are being told if the police are touching your vehicle. Alternatively your insurance company may have right to the data and they may turn it over, but you had agreed to that, so you were told. My question stands.
  • by amliebsch ( 724858 ) on Monday August 21, 2006 @05:40PM (#15951554) Journal

    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 up my own car (computer, books, diary, etc.)?

    Yes, unless of course you are doing it deliberately to destroy evidence. Much in the same way that you can shred all your personal files every day, until you are notified that you are being sued and those documents will be discoverable.

    Where does the court's right to information about me end and my rights to my own property and information begin?

    It begins and ends with probable cause, and almost always, a warrant.

    Is it safe to say "none of your damned business" any more?

    Yes, unless there is a warrant or a subpoena for that information. You may want to be more polite about it, though.

  • by z0I!) ( 914679 ) on Monday August 21, 2006 @05:40PM (#15951555) Homepage
    I didn't mean 5 years worth of data, but rather that there is a period of 5 years during which car companies can record any kind of data about the car/driver that they want, and they don't have to tell you about it. Although the article suggest only a few seconds (minutes?) before a crash a recorded, this isn't absolutely clear. And since there are no regulations now, there is nothing stopping companies from performing more invasive logging. As other posts mention, a car mechanic could potentially access this data and give it to anyone. Whether this is good or bad can be left up to our imaginations.
  • by NineNine ( 235196 ) on Monday August 21, 2006 @05:41PM (#15951558)
    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...
  • Re:another new law (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 21, 2006 @05:41PM (#15951563)
    You can remove the blackbox from your car and destroy it. It's your property. Just as you can remove your taillights and turn signals. Whether or not you can legally *drive* the vehicle after having removed those items is another story.
  • by tempest69 ( 572798 ) on Monday August 21, 2006 @05:47PM (#15951605) Journal
    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 years out), as the added price will be negligible.


  • Re:another new law (Score:3, Insightful)

    by abscondment ( 672321 ) on Monday August 21, 2006 @05:51PM (#15951638) Homepage

    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 pertinence appears weak. If you're under investigation for something like vehicular homicide, the police will obtain access to your car and its contents, including the box in question.

    You're always safer if no record is made than if the record exists but is "protected".

  • by imemyself ( 757318 ) on Monday August 21, 2006 @05:56PM (#15951678)
    Why should anyone ever have to prove their innocence?
  • Re:I like it. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by vux984 ( 928602 ) on Monday August 21, 2006 @06:02PM (#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.
  • by John Jorsett ( 171560 ) on Monday August 21, 2006 @06:04PM (#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.
  • Re:I like it. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ScrewMaster ( 602015 ) on Monday August 21, 2006 @06:09PM (#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.
  • Discount? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Alchemar ( 720449 ) on Monday August 21, 2006 @06:11PM (#15951770)
    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 accelerate or brake. The current system can't tell what the speed limit was, so all that "hard acceleration" is the type of behavior they will look at, or the time you go out of state and the speed limit is 5 miles over the maximum speed in your home state.
    I could see where you could use the information in a court case, but then why couldn't you submit your data. The other person may or may not consent to a search. If your data shows that you were driving correctly, now you have a reasonable cause to get a court order for the other guys data. At that point it would follow all the same laws as physically searching your vehicle

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

    by DJCacophony ( 832334 ) <(moc.t0gym) (ta) (akd0v)> on Monday August 21, 2006 @06:14PM (#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?"
  • But wait (Score:3, Insightful)

    by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Monday August 21, 2006 @06:27PM (#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.

  • by Nom du Keyboard ( 633989 ) on Monday August 21, 2006 @07:03PM (#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 TubeSteak ( 669689 ) on Monday August 21, 2006 @07:24PM (#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 AHumbleOpinion ( 546848 ) on Monday August 21, 2006 @10:33PM (#15953091) Homepage
    Yes, and competition and market forces have prevented computer software from phoning home. The one thing you should never do is underestimate the stupidity and ignorance of the American people.

    True, your post proves that. Unlike computer software packages, auto insurance companies are essentially interchangable and there is essentially no switching cost to the consumer. So they compete on service and perception, market forces work well under such circumstances.
  • Re:I like it. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Ashtead ( 654610 ) on Tuesday August 22, 2006 @02:46AM (#15953864) Journal

    Faraday cages work both ways. Reciprocity, as it is called; the equations describing how it works give the same solution for waves going in either direction. Same thing as an antenna being equally able to transmit and receive.

    However, the degree of shielding will depend on the sizes of the openings in the cage, and the wavelength of the signal. If the openings are larger than about 1/10 the wavelength, they will let some of the energy or signal through, and the larger the opening is the more energy or signal will make it through.

    I don't know exactly which frequency these will work at, but I'd imagine that even if they used one of the unlicensed ones near 430 MHz, the wavelength is about 70 cm, and so any opening larger than 7 cm (or about 3 inches) could let some of the signal through. The window openings in any car are larger than this, so there is not much in the car stopping the signal from any internal transmitter at this frequency from being received outside it.

Nothing ever becomes real till it is experienced -- even a proverb is no proverb to you till your life has illustrated it. -- John Keats