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Black-box plan fuels spy fears

2012-12-14 12:42

USED FOR SAFETY AND NOT SPYING: The American Automobile Association wants to ensure the privacy of motorists is protected should the "black-box" mandate be passed by the US Congress.

WASHINGTON - The American Automobile Association wants the US Congress to ensure the privacy of vehicle owners as the government seeks to mandate "black boxes" in all vehicles.

According to the Detroit News, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on Friday proposed that every vehicle built after September 2014 have event data recorders - so-called "black boxes" that capture data before, during and after a crash.

AAA, the nation's largest auto club with 53-million members, says drivers' privacy must be protected.


Robert Darbelnet, president and CEO of AAA said: "Data recording devices play a critical role in advancing vehicle safety but drivers should own the data their vehicle generates.

"Congress needs to ensure drivers' rights are protected by passing legislation that prohibits access to data without permission from the owner or with a court order, unless the data is used for research purposes and cannot be tracked to a single vehicle.”

The AAA said its national office did not have a position on whether automakers should be allowed to install off/on switches on the devices so people could opt out.


A crash or air bag deployment typically triggers the data recorder, which collects data in the seconds before and during a crash.

The recorders collect vehicle speed; whether the brake was activated in the moments before a crash; crash forces at moment of impact; information about the state of the engine throttle; air bag deployment timing and air bag readiness prior to the crash; and whether the vehicle occupant's seat belt was buckled.

Information can be used to improve highway safety by helping NHTSA and automakers understand why a crash occurred and if safety systems worked properly.


The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, the trade association representing Detroit's Big Three automakers, Toyota and VW called for privacy protection.

The AAA said it supported the proposal to order event data recorders on all new light vehicles, as long as drivers' privacy was  protected. It would submit formal comments and call on Congress to address privacy concerns.

Darbelnet believed all automakers should be required to disclose prominently the existence of an EDR device on a new vehicle, not just with a sentence in the user's manual.

The NHTSA estimates that about 96% of 2013 cars and light-duty vehicles are equipped with data recorder capability — and at least 91% have such a device.

The devices have been in use for about 20 years and most automakers - among them General Motors  and Toyota - have them in all vehicles today. Some European automakers haven't yet added such units.

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