If you have recently been involved in an auto accident, its likely that the details of the crash were recorded in your vehicles black box. According to the U.S. government, more than 90 percent of all new cars have these devices.
It was actually the black box in Brooke Melton's 2005 Chevrolet Cobalt that helped engineers determine it was a defective ignition switch that caused her fatal accident in 2009. Although Melton's parents settled a lawsuit through a car accident lawyer in 2013 with General Motors (GM), the story was once again brought into the public eye when GM recalled millions of their vehicles, including 235,000 in Canada for a faulty ignition switch.
Black boxes, similar to those found on airplanes, are event data recorders that can show how fast a vehicle was traveling, if the brakes were applied, if the airbags deployed and other pertinent information.
However, data is not as comprehensible or accessible as the boxes found in airplanes. Some advocates are hoping to change this as well as push for the boxes to be mandatory in all vehicles.
On the other hand, privacy advocates worry that the data could be misused and are pushing for there to be limitations on who can access the information.
Traffic safety regulators, law enforcement agencies and insurance companies see the boxes as a tool for making cars safer and settling disputes. In Canada, data from black boxes is available to third parties only if the vehicle owner agrees to provide it or if a court subpoenas the information.
The recorders do not collect any personal information, conversations or even run continuously. Courts have argued that the data belongs to the vehicles owner, but auto makers control the data through encryption keys.
Until the boxed are made mandatory, regulators face an uphill battle on the subject due to privacy and proprietorship of the information.