Congress is on the verge of passing a transportation bill that will make black boxes mandatory in all new cars. The truth of the matter is that most Americans already have black boxes in their cars. They’ve been around since 1996, are found in at least 60 million vehicles, and are a feature in 85% of new cars every year.
Virtually every car that has an air bag has some kind of recording ability. The recorders capture information about how fast you were going and whether you slammed on the brakes in the seconds before and after a crash. They capture just a snapshot, not a continual record of your driving activity — which would be far more concerning for privacy.
Many drivers don’t realize they already have a black box. Black boxes have been a source of info in countless criminal cases to show how fast a driver was going when he or she slammed into pedestrians or another car.
The new law will make the recorders mandatory in all vehicles starting in 2015, meaning that manufacturers who have not been including them will have to start.
The bill is actually good for privacy in a few ways. In the past, there were questions about whether the data belonged to the manufacturer or the owner. This would establish that the data in the recorder belongs to the owner of a vehicle, meaning that interested parties such as insurance companies, dealerships, or advertisers won’t be able to collect info from your black box without your permission.