NHTSA issuing standards for in-vehicle black boxes, starts Sept. 1

The NHTSA has announced that new federal standards for in-vehicle event data recorders (aka "black boxes") will take effect on September 1, a year before automakers were expecting them. How will this affect you?

Automakers had hoped that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) would wait another year before issuing standards requirements for automotive "black boxes" - devices which record information in a revolving fashion and shut off recording in an accident.

The boxes are meant to allow police and insurance to find out what happened immediately before and during an accident. The devices record things like vehicle speed, engine and electronics systems information, etc. This information can be recovered after an accident in order to get an idea of what was happening in the vehicle and whether or not driver or systems errors could have contributed to the accident.

The NHTSA requirements do not require that EDRs be included in cars; they will remain voluntary. Currently, very few cars employ an EDR and often, they are added after-market as an insurance incentive.

Although the mandate for them is not in place, the NHTSA is thought to be considering it and could implement a requirement as early as this year, affecting model years 2014 onward. Politically, this issue has been a hot-button in the past and, frankly, is not likely to be taken up in an election year.



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