At this point, we are all very familiar with the infamous “black box” that is often associated with helping to understand what happened after a plane crash. In the aviation world the unit is designed to withstand the elements, fire and extreme conditions encountered in a crash. What makes the device a crucial piece to understanding a crash is its ability to provide crucial technical data such as speed, pilot conversations and a whole host of metrics regarding what the plane was doing prior to crashing. Interestingly enough, this technology has crossed over into the automotive world and has quietly made its way into passenger vehicles without most of us being aware of what it is and is not doing.
At this point, event data recorders (EDR) are only capable of recording about 30 seconds of information. This information does not include in car conversations but will record data such as speed, braking and any other technical data the vehicles computer is able to provide. This information is not readily available to anyone and only the vehicle manufacturer and authorized law enforcement agencies have access to the special equipment that can read the EDR information. This makes sense since the folks investigating a crash will need to understand what factors played a role and in turn this will also help the insurance industry ensure accuracy in settlements.
The EDR data belongs to the vehicle owner and can not be accessed by anyone without permission however it can be accessed by law enforcement without permission. It makes me wonder if there will come a day when a routine speeding ticket may turn into the officer scanning the EDR to see how fast you were really going!