The US Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) proposed a new standard that would capture valuable safety-related data in the seconds before and during a motor vehicle crash. The proposed rule would require automakers to install event data recorders (EDRs)—devices that collect specific safety-related data (i.e., “black boxes”)in all light passenger vehicles beginning 1 September 2014.
NHTSA estimates that approximately 96% of model year 2013 passenger cars and light-duty vehicles are already equipped with EDR capability. These devices are located in the vehicle and require special hardware and software to copy the information. A crash or air bag deployment typically triggers the EDR, which collects data in the seconds before and during a crash.
The data collected by EDRs can be used to improve highway safety by ensuring NHTSA, other crash investigators and automotive manufacturers understand the dynamics involved in a crash and the performance of safety systems.
Examples of some of the information recorded include:
- vehicle speed;
- whether the brake was activated in the moments before a crash;
- crash forces at the 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.
EDRs do not collect any personal identifying information or record conversations and do not run continuously.
The new safety regulation proposed would require EDRs as mandatory equipment in passenger vehicles that weigh less than 8,500 pounds. The proposal includes the same standardized data collection requirements established by NHTSA in 2006 for EDRs that are voluntarily installed by automakers (49 CFR Part 563) and mandates that automakers provide a commercially available tool for copying the data. In keeping with NHTSA’s current policies on EDR data, the EDR data would be treated by NHTSA as the property of the vehicle owner and would not be used or accessed by the agency without owner consent.
Members of the public are encouraged to provide comment on NHTSA’s EDR proposal and will have 60 days to do so once the proposal is published in the Federal Register.