Your shiny new automobile may include a feature you didn’t request, and probably don’t even know about. Most- almost 96 percent- of the mass-produced vehicles in 2013, contain an event data recorder, or EDR. These EDRs, akin to “black box” surveillance devices, record your every maneuver while you’re behind the wheel.
Most people don’t know about the EDRs, even though they soon could become a mandatory automotive feature. The U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is requesting that, starting in September 2014, the installation of EDRs in all light passenger vehicles be required. However, opponents of the idea have begun raising awareness in an attempt to enlighten drivers to the fact that data concerning their every move behind the wheel is being collected, and could easily be shared, and used against them.
Few safeguards are in place and the still-emerging technology raises many questions about what types of information can legally be collected and who should be allowed to access it. Opponents of the NHTSA’s proposal argue that the EDRs are capable of collecting huge amounts of data, and that without proper protections, use of that information could be abused.
So far, only thirteen states have implemented restrictions safeguarding the data from being used without consent, by making it the property of the driver.
What Data Does an EDR Collect?
Law enforcement officials in Washington State told National Public Radio that the devices were never intended for investigative purposes, but rather designed to improve motor vehicle safety and help minimize passenger injuries.
Standard EDRs do not differentiate between specific drivers of the same vehicle, but rather, they provide a “snap shot” of what happens in a vehicle in those crucial moments just prior to a crash. According to the type of EDR, the device can record vehicle speed, crash force at the moment of impact, whether the brake was engaged before impact, if the seat belt was buckled, and other information about the state of the engine right before the crash.