Mandatory ‘Big Brother’ Black Boxes In All New Cars From 2015

Russ Steele

Where have these people been? I wrote this in 2004 for the Capital Journal. That was eight years ago.

“No one wants a stranger invading their privacy, looking over their shoulder watching every move. Yet, every time the driver of a late model car turns the key, they could be inviting an unknown observer. An observer who can report indicator light status, seat belts on or off, motor speed, vehicle speed, brake activation, crash forces, and event times; should the driver be involved in an accident. All valuable information to reconstruct an accident, determine accident responsibility, check for insurance fraud, or to make critical medical decisions at the accident site.”

Consider this from Infowars:

A bill already passed by the Senate and set to be rubber stamped by the House would make it mandatory for all new cars in the United States to be fitted with black box data recorders from 2015 onwards.

Section 31406 of Senate Bill 1813 (known as MAP-21), calls for “Mandatory Event Data Recorders” to be installed in all new automobiles and legislates for civil penalties to be imposed against individuals for failing to do so.

“Not later than 180 days after the date of enactment of this Act, the Secretary shall revise part 563 of title 49, Code of Federal Regulations, to require, beginning with model year 2015, that new passenger motor vehicles sold in the United States be equipped with an event data recorder that meets the requirements under that part,” states the bill.

Although the text of legislation states that such data would remain the property of the owner of the vehicle, the government would have the power to access it in a number of circumstances, including by court order, if the owner consents to make it available, and pursuant to an investigation or inspection conducted by the Secretary of Transportation.

When I worked for TRW, a major supplier of auto airbags in the 1990s they included an event recorder in every airbag controller. Why?  Because people were suing TRW, claiming their accident was caused by the airbag going off. The IC recorder collected the acceleration forces for about 20 second before any crash.  It was soon clear which took place first, the accident and then the airbag going off.

I suspect this legislation does not have anything to do with crash recording, which has been in place for years for any vehicle with airbags. It is more about recording where the vehicle drives so that government agencies can collect road taxes.  This has been on the mind of the Department of Transportation for years.

I wrote this in December of 2004, again almost eight years ago:

Mary Peters, Federal Highway Administrator for the Transportation Research Board in Washington D.C., acknowledged the problem at a January highway finance session, saying, “The bottom line is we cannot depend on fossil fuel-based taxes in the future.” Peters suggests the solution to declining revenue is a “public utility model where we pay for what we use, based on the time of day we use it, and how many other people want to use it.” In effect this would be a market-based solution for allocating a limited resource — a congestion and pollution free roadway.

Having an onboard recorder is consistent with this solution. I suspect the recording device is nothing more than a Camel’s nose under the tent flap, a recorder being sold as a safety device, but then adopted for it’s the real intended use.  If you have evidence to the contrary please share it.


About Russ Steele
Freelance writer and climate change blogger. Russ spent twenty years in the Air Force as a navigator specializing in electronics warfare and digital systems. After his service he was employed for sixteen years as concept developer for TRW, an aerospace and automotive company, and then was CEO of a non-profit Internet provider for 18 months. Russ's articles have appeared in Comstock's Business, Capitol Journal, Trailer Life, Monitoring Times, and Idaho Magazine.

6 Responses to Mandatory ‘Big Brother’ Black Boxes In All New Cars From 2015

  1. sean2829 says:

    ” In effect this would be a market-based solution for allocating a limited resource — a congestion and pollution free roadway.” Any device whose installation is mandatory is NOT a market based solution. Also, how many cars have satellite radios or cellular system. The government could keep track of everything you do, everyplace you go in real time (if its not doing that already). Privacy as we used to know it is over. Imagine, your car driving around the state, sending data to a server about where you are and where you go. At the end of the month, the state could send you a bill for the “tolls”. Heck I bet they can even track what speed you go so tickets could be assessed automatically. Think of all the money that could be raised keeping people “safe”.

  2. RL Crabb says:

    I’ll bet the insurance companies love it.

    • Russ says:

      They did. It took several law suits as to who owned the data. The Courts rule in favor of the vehicle owner. The police wanted a reader that they could use by pull the chip on the scene and recording the results. Great for determining fault. Court said, not with out the owner permission.

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