Federal safety regulators want all new cars installed with so-called “black boxes,” similar to those on airplanes, to help the government and auto manufacturers learn valuable lessons from accidents on the road. But the idea has stirred concerns among consumer groups and civil libertarians who fear the data in the black boxes might be used inappropriately unless legal safeguards are established.
Under a new rule (pdf) proposed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), carmakers would be required to equip all new vehicles with “event data recorders” (EDRs) starting in September 2014. Some new automobiles already have a black box, although their owners may not be aware of it. Automakers began installing them in the early 1990s, but they weren’t required to disclose their existence in the car owner’s manual.