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Push for Black Boxes in Cars Comes on the Heels of GM Recalls

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Would the use of black boxes in cars help prevent serious accidents? Airliners have been using black boxes for years to collect data from flights to correct issues before they become serious problems.

According to an article in the New York Times, almost all new cars have “event data recorders” and soon they will be required.  But, black boxes in cars work differently than the ones found in planes.  The data collected from a black box in a car is minimal and usually only analyzed after an accident to determine liability.

In the case of General Motors, the company allegedly knew about the faulty ignition switch problem for years, which would turn off several electrical components in the car, and didn’t do anything about it.  The use of a black box, similar to how it is used in an airliner would help investigators determine defects and fix them before deadly accidents.

More Recalls Issued by GM

GM announced more recalls on May 15, 2014 due to a wiring problem in 2.4 million cars.  The bulk of the recall includes these vehicles:

• 2004-2007 Chevrolet Malibu Maxx
• 2005-2010 Pontiac G6
• 2004-2012 Chevrolet Malibu
• 2007-1010 Saturn Auras

To date, GM was made aware of hundreds of complaints, 13 crashes and 2 injuries due to the wiring flaw.  The wiring flaw can lead to brake lights not working when brakes are used, or the opposite, with brake lights going on when the driver isn’t pressing on the brake.  It could also disable: electronic stability control, panic braking assist operation, cruise control and traction control.

GM & Other Associations Asked for Delay of Black Box Deadline in 2010

According to an ABC News article, GM, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers representing 11 automakers at the time, and the Association of International Automobile Manufacturers asked for a “year delay to the 2012 deadline for NHTSA regulations.”  The requested delay was in part due to the fact that some of the car models were still being developed.

EU Legislation Calls for Black Box-Like Devices in All New Vehicles

If pending EU legislation is passed, in 2015 all new cars sold in the United Kingdom will be equipped with an “eCall Device” in an effort to crack down on deaths due to car accidents.  These devices are not new, and will help drivers and passengers get the medical attention they need if they are involved in a car accident.  The legislation is receiving some pushback, because of privacy concerns.

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  1. Dan Skwire says:
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    YES! Expand the functionality of car EDRs. From all I have read, automotive EDRs are very different than airplane black boxes. Far less recording time, 30 seconds, far less data recorded, far less intended problems to solve(just solve airbag problems, maybe… as the GM ignition switch events have shown).

    Create true all-purpose, long duration black boxes for cars. Ideally, errors (and normal operation snapshots) could be phoned-home. How about using ON-STAR for that, GM?!!!

    Yes, read my book, goto my website, join my First Fault Problem Solving linkedin group.