FAQ :: Are black boxes being installed in vehicles?

Yes. Some vehicles have them. Event data recorders that function much like the “black boxes” on airplanes, and which are now installed on virtually all new vehicles, can give investigators incriminating details about your driving behavior in the final seconds before a crash.

Details that can be scrutinized include how fast the vehicle was going, as well as whether the brakes or accelerator were being pressed, which way the car was being steered, and whether or not the occupants were wearing their seatbelts. The data is always being recorded, but it’s only saved to the device’s memory if an air bag deploys, automakers say.

The data can now be accessed without a wired connection. Beginning with the 2011 Chevrolet Cruze, General Motors will be able to upload the information from the recorders wirelessly through the OnStar system included on most of the automaker’s vehicles.

Gary Biller, executive director of the National Motorists Association, said he has heard of possible transponder-style readers that could upload the data just by coming close to a vehicle that is equipped with special technology similar to that used by automated toll-collection systems.

General Motors has installed black boxes in its vehicles since the mid-’90s, and Nissan, Ford, Toyota and most other automakers have been using the technology in their new vehicles since at least the mid-2000s.

There are no requirements for them to put the devices in cars, but beginning with the 2011 model year, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration requires that automakers state in the vehicle owner’s manual whether a recorder is installed and where it is located. Locations vary by make, model and year. [1]

A bill already passed by the Senate and set to be rubber stamped by the House would make it mandatory for all new cars in the United States to be fitted with black box data recorders from 2015 onward.

Section 31406 of Senate Bill 1813 (known as MAP-21), calls for “Mandatory Event Data Recorders” to be installed in all new automobiles and legislates for civil penalties to be imposed against individuals for failing to do so.

“Not later than 180 days after the date of enactment of this Act, the Secretary shall revise part 563 of title 49, Code of Federal Regulations, to require, beginning with model year 2015, that new passenger motor vehicles sold in the United States be equipped with an event data recorder that meets the requirements under that part,” states the bill.

Although the text of legislation states that such data would remain the property of the owner of the vehicle, the government would have the power to access it in a number of circumstances, including by court order, if the owner consents to make it available, and pursuant to an investigation or inspection conducted by the Secretary of Transportation.

Given the innumerable examples of both government and industry illegally using supposedly privacy-protected information to spy on individuals, this represents the slippery slope to total Big Brother surveillance of every American’s transport habits and location data.

The legislation, which has been given the Orwellian title “Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act,” sailed through the Senate after being heavily promoted by Democrats Harry Reid and Barbara Boxer and is also expected to pass the Republican-controlled House.

Given the fact that the same bill also includes a controversial provision that would empower the IRS to revoke passports of citizens merely accused of owing over $50,000 in back taxes, stripping them of their mobility rights, could the mandatory black boxes or a similar technology be used for the same purpose?

Biometric face-recognition and transdermol sensor technology that prevents an inebriated person from driving a car by disabling the automobile has already been developed, in addition to systems that refuse to allow the vehicle to start if the driver is deemed to be overtired.

The ultimate Big Brother scenario would be a system whereby every driver had to get de facto permission from the state to drive each time they get behind the wheel, once it had been determined from an iris scan that they were good citizens who have paid all their taxes and not misbehaved.

The push to pressure car manufacturers to install black box tracking devices in all new cars has been ongoing for over a decade. In 2006, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration encouraged but did not require automobile manufacturers to install the systems.

However, in February last year NHTSA administrator David Strickland said the government was considering making the technology mandatory in the wake of recalls of millions of Toyota vehicles.

Earlier this year it was reported that the NHTSA would soon formally announce that all new cars would be mandated to have the devices fitted by law, which has now been codified into the MAP-21 bill. [2]

Black boxes are great tools to determine who is at fault in an accident, but eventually they will be used to monitor drivers and occupants whenever they enter a vehicle. GM snoopers already can download data from black boxes 24-7. They can also eavesdrop on the passengers in every vehicle that has the OnStar system.

[1] Williams, G. Chambers III. “Automotive ‘black boxes’ raise privacy issues.” The Tennessean. USA Today. 10.16.2012. www.usatoday.com/money/autos/story/ 2011-10-16/black-boxes-cars/50789142/1
[2] http://www.infowars.com/mandatory-big-brother-black-boxes-in-all-new-cars-from-2015/