Join Date: Feb 2001
Location: The Hills of North Georgia,USA
U.S.A.:Drivers, beware: Black box data in cars may be used against you
By Ann Job / Special to The Detroit News
What if your car or truck could tattle on you to your insurance company? Or testify against you in court? What if information about your vehicle were considered as infallible as DNA evidence?
Wouldn't you want to know?
I would, and so would Tim Leslie.
The California state lawmaker has authored legislation that would require automakers to disclose to car buyers -- in California, at least -- if their new vehicles have electronic data recorders, called EDRs, that track vehicle and driver behavior in a crash.
The bill would also make clear that the data belongs to the vehicle owner, thus mandating owner approval before anyone could access the information.
The devices, called "black boxes" by some, are not new. General Motors Corp. vehicles dating back to the '70s have had them, spokesman Jim Schell said. Today, all new GM models do.
Schell said that GM engineers, studying how to improve vehicle safety, have been tapping into the devices "a lot." He didn't elaborate.
All it takes is a technician, a link and a laptop with the right software. Voila!
The most sophisticated boxes -- Ford Motor Co. now has them in some high-end models, too -- record details about air bag operation; vehicle speed leading up to a crash, including just before impact; whether you were accelerating or braking at the time; and whether or not you were wearing a seat belt.
Efforts to improve auto safety are laudable. And GM's Schell said that the automaker always gets owner approval before extracting data.
But that approval does not seem to be required by law, said Leslie, a privacy advocate. And consumers "should understand they do have a black box" in their vehicle, said Leslie's spokesman, Brian O'Neel.
If Leslie's legislation succeeds in California, similar laws could follow in other states.
More should be done to clarify and explain to consumers the use of this data, given that vehicle monitoring and diagnostics are becoming increasingly common. Already, prosecutors are using black box data in court.
In Florida this year, a man was sentenced to 30 years in prison for vehicular manslaughter after the recorder in his Pontiac Firebird showed he was going 114 mph before a fatal crash.
The assistant state prosecutor in the case, Michael Horowitz, said black box data is akin "to where DNA was 10 years ago" in court cases.
At the same time, Stephen Keating, executive director of the Denver-based Privacy Foundation, wonders whether insurers will want to use this data to settle claims, to provide selective discounts to drivers who agree to be monitored or to decide whether to continue to insure a driver at all.
"It's an example," he said, "where technology has gotten ahead of the law."
My first car was a 67 Mustang Coupe, 2nd one was a 67 Cougar XR-7, 3rd one was a 66 Mustang Coupe. Why did I get rid of these cars for ? I know why, because I'm stupid, stupid, stupid.
My next Ford.....