Standards For The Vehicle Black Box?
By Perry Zucker
Submitted October, 2004
Currently, there are no rules or standards for vehicle black boxes. But, if the government (NHTSA) has its way there will be many rules and regulations.
Starting from the late 90's to present light vehicle manufactures were equipping most of their vehicles with electronic data recorders (EDR), which are sometimes referred to as "Black Boxes". These devices are currently, not being used for the original intended purpose, which was for diagnosing vehicle related problems by mechanics. They are being used to download non-regulated data to assist so-called accident investigators. This action could be deemed "Junk Science".
The NHTSA is proposing several regulations that would specify requirements for light vehicles that are required by statute and by FMVSS No. 208. These regulations would apply to passenger cars, trucks, buses, multipurpose passenger vehicle with a GVWR 8,500 pounds, or less and an unloaded vehicle weight of 5,500 pounds or less, equipped with EDRs.
The first regulation would require the EDRs in these vehicles to record a minimum set of specified data elements. Some of the data includes but not limited to: vehicle longitudinal acceleration, Delta V, indicated (speedometer) travel speed, engine RPM, engine throttle position (%), service brake status, ignition cycle, safety belt status, status of vehicle air bag lights, elapsed time to deployment of all bag(s).
The second regulation would require a specific data format. This is a key factor to have all OEMs (Original Equipment manufacturer) have the same standard format (operating system).
The third regulation would require that EDRs function during and after all types (front / side, rear, etc.) of vehicle crash tests specified in several Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS).
The fourth regulation would require vehicle manufacturers to make publicly available information that would enable crash engineers to retrieve data from the EDR.
The fifth regulation would require EDRs be capable of capturing up to three (3) events in a multi-event crash, i.e. if a vehicle side swipes a tree, guardrail, and then hits a car. As a matter of fact, 18% to 28% of crashes involve multi-events.
The sixth and final regulation would require vehicle manufacturers to include a brief statement in the owner's manual explaining that the vehicle includes an EDR and details concerning the same. This statement may read as follows: "This vehicle is equipped with an event data recorder. In the event of a crash, this device records data related to vehicle dynamics and safety systems for a short period of time, typically 30 seconds or less. These data can help provide a better understanding of the circumstances in which crashes and injuries occur and lead to the designing of safer vehicles. This device does not collect or store personal information".
The proposing effective date would be September 2008. This extended date would give manufacturers time to redesign their EDRs system and to use cost effective engineering factors.
It bears mentioning that the NHTSA does not have the authority over such areas as who owns the information that has been recorded. Some of these issued are covered by various Private, Federal, State and City government agencies.
Indeed in the next few years, the courts will have to address many of these issues, concerning privacy, i.e. Privacy Act of 1974, the Freedom Of Information Act (Section (b) (6)), and the US Constitution.
About the Author: Perry J. Zucker, Degreed Engineer (several degrees in engineering as well as technology), provides technical reports, pre-trial preparation, and expert witness testimony concerning vehicle related accidents (reconstruction), traffic violations, general accidents, and product liability cases, for both plaintiffs / defendants and civil / criminal. He is a member of SAE, IEEE, ASME, State Appellate Div. Expert Panel, ASE certified, State vehicle inspector and a certified speed measuring device operator / instructor. His office can be reached at (718) 375-5063 or visit him on the web at trafficdoc.com.
Copyright © 2003 Perry Zucker.All rights reserved. No portion of this article may be reproduced without the express written permission of the copyright holder. If you believe you may lawfully use a quotation, excerpt or paraphrase of this article under the Fair Use exception to copyright law, except as otherwise authorized by the author of the article, you must cite this article as a source for your work and include a link back to the original article from any online materials that incorporate or are derived from the content of this article.