“Black Box” is the nickname for an “onboard event data recorder.” Most people are familiar with the “black box” recorder in airplanes that records the pilot’s actions for a set period of time prior to a crash. Airplane crash investigators search diligently to find the “black box” to help determine what went wrong. Now, the same is true for most auto collisions.Do I Have a “Black Box” On My Vehicle?
Probably. The practice of putting “black boxes” in some U.S. autos dates back to the early 1990s. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) began collecting auto accident data from “black boxes” in the early 2000s. In 2013, about 96% of all new cars sold in the U.S. had a “black box.” As of September 1, 2014, NHTSA requires all new U.S. autos to have a “black box” installed. Thus, if your car does not presently have one, your next car certainly will.What Does a Black Box Record?
Black boxes currently record 15 separate variables pursuant to the recent NHTSA mandate. The variables include vehicle speed, throttle position, air bag deployment times, braking, seat belt usage, engine speed, steering angles, etc. The recorder will store information for roughly 20 seconds around the crash. This can vary from unit to unit. In order to retrieve the data, one must have a crash data retrieval system that plugs into the onboard diagnostics port under the dash board of the vehicle. You also need special software on the computer to interpret the data.
When a collision occurs, it is essential to promptly download this crucial electronic evidence. If the car is repaired and put back in service, the event data recorder will begin to over-write the recorded data with each ignition cycle. Thus, if the data is not downloaded promptly, this crucial evidence can be lost forever.
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