Black Boxes Likely in Cars

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is expected to propose in the coming days a rule requiring event data recorders — the so-called black boxes in vehicles that record crash data — in all new light vehicles.

The White House Office of Management Budget completed a review of the proposal today, clearing the way for NHTSA to finalize the standard for all cars and light trucks.

It was not immediately clear when the rule would take effect.

Assuming sales of 15.5 million vehicles annually, NHTSA estimates it would cost automakers $24.4 million in incremental costs to put the recorders in all vehicles.

About 90% of new vehicles have the recorders, including all by General Motors, Ford Motor, Toyota and Mazda.

The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, an industry group made up of the Detroit 3, Toyota Motor North America, Volkswagen Group of America, Mercedes-Benz USA and six other automakers, urges the government to consider driver privacy, it said.

“Event data recorders help our engineers understand how cars perform in the real world, but looking forward, we need to make sure we preserve privacy,” alliance spokeswoman Gloria Bergquist said in a statement. “Automakers do not access EDR data without consumer permission, and any government requirements to install EDRs on all vehicles must include steps to protect consumer privacy.”

In February 2011, NHTSA said in a White House report it would make a proposal by the end of 2011 to make EDRs mandatory, but it was delayed at the White House Office of Management Budget for more than a year.

EDRs have been in use for about 20 years, though different automakers collect different data.

In August 2006, NHTSA issued a rule to standardize the information EDRs collect to make data collection easier, which took effect for the 2013 model year that started Sept. 1.

Here is an NBC Nightly News story from a few days ago, in which I appear briefly:


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