Black boxes for cars

Black BoxMost of us are aware of the black boxes in airplanes. They read the plane’s computers and records all kinds of information in case of a crash. These devices also record sound from the cock-pit to assist investigators after a plane crash.

So what would you think of a black box in your car? They call them MVEDR (Motor Vehicle Event Data Recorder). The black box records speeds, g-forces, and any other pertinent information during a car accident. Of course it doesn’t have any “cock-pit” recording, but there is still a lot of information it collects.

Unknown to most of the public, many of the newer Ford and GM vehicles already have these devices. And the kicker is that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) will require all new vehicles to have the black boxes beginning in 2011.

Of course, this is being pushed by the insurance companies. With more accurate data, they can more easily save themselves money as well as the consumer because of reduced investigative costs and more precise crash data (at least that is what they claim). And of course, the data will also help the auto industry design safer vehicles.

One thing that makes me a little nervous is that this data can also be instantly transmitted to a third party. For instance, a CNET article about these devices details the following experience:

In 2004, while testing a 2005 Chevy Malibu Maxx, the editors at AutoWeek reported that after taking the SUV around a particularly gnarly set of cones, the OnStar button lit up and the speaker system offered a helpful voice to ask if everything was all right. No one in the car had reported a problem. Rather, the vehicle’s MVEDR system had kicked in because of the increase in G-force data. AutoWeek reported that OnStar collects data on near-collisions and collisions and retains this data for as long as 18 months.

Privacy concerns?

So what do you think? Is this a good idea? Is this going to be a benefit to the consumer or to the corporations or both?

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