The Binary Blogger recently posted about the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s proposal to put black box event recorders in all vehicles. The agency claims the data collected by this device would be used in investigating car accidents. While in theory this sounds like it could be a positive thing, making crash probes less he-said-she-said and more factual, the blogger points out that black boxes could actually be seriously detrimental to drivers. One important issue with these event recorders is whether the car owners would have access to the data they collect. Automakers have already tried to prevent car owners from accessing the data. This means that you would not have full possession of the vehicle you purchased because you would have no way of knowing what information is being recorded. The computers in your vehicle that control the fuel, braking and electrical systems could easily be modified to transmit information about how you drive to another point. Camera systems could record you and your passengers. Without being able to see what is being recorded, car owners would have their privacy invaded without control and with no way to insure the accuracy of the information..
Another issue is how the information gathered will be used. Data collected by these recorders could help shed light on what happened in a serious car accident. Many times the information will help the car owner prove they were not responsible for the accident. But the black box information could prove to be more harmful than helpful in some accidents. By recording data like GPS coordinates, speed and perhaps lane placement, the car owner could be gathering information that could later be used against them. For example, insurance companies could potentially use the information to claim you are at least partially responsible for any auto accident that occurs.
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As a car accident lawyer, I have mixed feelings about the use of black boxes. To the extent it provides objective and accurate data about how the car accident happened, it is a good thing. However, the idea that insurance companies can use data against you that you helped collect without any real safeguards to ensure the accuracy of the information is troubling.