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Black Boxes in Cars

Updated on May 2, 2012

The Senate has recently passed legislation requiring new cars to have black boxes in them that would record everything, much like and airplane. These black boxes are officially known as event data recorders (ERD). The mandate would only begin with passenger cars starting in 2015. It’ just a bill for now, but it is expected to make it through the House as well.

Before you get too overworked about black boxes and invasion of privacy, you should consider a few things first. There is a good possibility you are already driving a car with an ERD. Many auto manufacturers have been installing these black boxes in their vehicles for several years. For instance, General Motors has been using OnStar in their vehicles for a few years now. This is one such example of an ERD. Or in 2009, Toyota was cleared of its acceleration pedal issues because of data from ERDs in their vehicles. Many companies have been using black boxes in their commercial fleets to ensure that their drivers are being safe on the road.

It is also important to look at the actual legislation of the bill. It states that any of the information recorded on the ERD is property of the driver. The only time this information could be accessed by anyone else would be in the instance of an accident with a medical emergency or for legal reasons. In both of these instances, the ERD could be extremely useful and not really an invasion of privacy.

In the instance of a bad accident, the ERD could be viewed to show that the driver was doing everything possible to prevent a crash. It could show that they were not speeding and that they applied the brakes appropriately. Or in a legal issue, the information recorded on the black box could possibly clear you for what occurred. Of course, it could work the opposite way as well. This ERD could incriminate you and cause you to be a fault for something that would normally be left an unknown.

To many people, they may view this as George Orwell’s 1984 coming to fruition. This is just another example of our government turning into “Big Brother” in order to watch every move we make. Once this bill is signed into law, they would be able to monitor how people are driving. This is maybe just another infringement on peoples’ rights and freedoms, much like the Patriot Act or other legislation that gives the government more power over the people.

However, if this bill is only meant to be used for safety issues, it is definitely useful. If it is meant to be used to spy on people under the guise of “safety,” than it is terrible. If the black boxes are only accessed for legal and medical reasons, than people have nothing to worry about, especially if they are following the laws. It’s not that we need to be worried about these things occurring, but we simply need to be aware of them.

Are you in favor of a black box in your car?

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    • Joelipoo profile image

      Joel 5 years ago from Ohio

      @annart - There are good and bad sides for sure. It could be useful if not abused. Thanks for reading.

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 5 years ago from SW England

      It's a difficult issue, like all the 'big brother' type of arguments. No doubt this kind of legislation will occur in Britain too, in due course and is probably also already in lots of our cars. I think it's a good idea to have a black box which can record what actions were taken in your car in the event of an accident. If you're at fault then you should have to take the consequences; if not, then you're vindicated. However, as always there are probably some grey areas which could still throw up problems, so it's a matter which has to be looked at really carefully.

      A good hub neatly argued. Voted up and interesting.

    • Joelipoo profile image

      Joel 5 years ago from Ohio

      @dwilliam - It's almost impossible to make sense of certain things in this world. It's hard to know the truth either. Thanks for your input.

    • d.william profile image

      d.william 5 years ago from Somewhere in the south

      I am adamantly opposed to this invasion of privacy. It was my understanding that those black boxes have been in cars since 2000.

      This is just another way to remove privacy from our lives. Those black boxes have the capacity to listen to conversations taking place in your vehicle.

      Years ago when gangsters wanted to speak in privacy they always took a ride in their cars to discuss any sensitive subjects. That was the reason for using the black boxes in vehicles in the first place, and called it an "anti terrorist" device; then they started calling them ERDs to easy suspicion by the public.

      I also believe that any communicative device in your home that brings messages into your living space has the capacity to listen (and view) activity within the privacy of your homes. Never, ever trust your privacy to be guarded by home land security, National security adm, the CIA, The FBI, or any other law enforcing agencies. We are living in a police state, and it will get a lot worse before, (if ever) it gets any better.

      If you have a 10 foot privacy fence around your home, and someone climbs up a ladder and looks over that fence, sees you sunbathing nude, takes a photo, gives it to the police, you surely will be arrested for indecent exposure. Not a joke.

    • Joelipoo profile image

      Joel 5 years ago from Ohio

      @teaches - Like most things, there is a good and bad side to this. If used correctly, it can be a positive, but if used incorrectly, it could eventually be used against us to infringe on our privacy.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      You post some good argument for and against the box. It is a good thing to have if it helps to improve the car's performance and helps to find out why the accident occured. Good points made.