Posted on May 21, 2010
It appears as though Congress, automakers and safety groups are closer to putting black boxes in all newly manufactured cars within the next few years. However, much debate has been sparked between the three groups over how much and what type of data should be recorded.

Congress and safety regulators insist that black boxes must be extremely durable. If the event data recorders do not survive the crash, they are rendered useless. Automakers are concerned over the cost of proposed instruments. A proposal in Congress suggests that black boxes should be able to withstand a rollover crash, fire and water immersion. Similar highly durable recorders that exist in all airplanes cost between $5,000 to $25,000.

Regulators also suggest that black boxes should record the 60 seconds before and the 15 seconds after a crash. Current National Highway Traffic Safety Administration standards for recorders only document 5 seconds of pre-crash data, which does not give an accurate depiction of incidents like those involving unintended acceleration. The devices in place now survive around 95 percent of all crashes and increasing their durability would be expensive.

The black box proposal is one of many being reviewed by Congress at the present time that would improve auto safety. However, a number of concerns, including issues about privacy and how recorders would affect the design of all new vehicles hamper the approval process. It does appear, however, that auto safety is something both sides of the aisle can agree on.

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