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U.S. Proposes Standards for Auto Data Recorders

June 15, 2004

The U.S. government wants to standardize information collected by automobile data recorders and make the results more widely accessible, regulators said on June 11, according to Reuters. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) hopes its proposed regulation, introduced after seven years of study, will dramatically improve the quality of accident investigations, especially on crash severity and seat belt function, and lead to safety improvements. "EDRs (event data recorders) are in most new vehicles and are already providing valuable safety information for our crash investigators and researchers," said Dr. Jeffrey Runge, the safety agency administrator. The government estimates that 30 million vehicles on U.S. roads are equipped with recorders. The National Transportation Safety Board, which investigates transportation accidents, has long advocated the benefits of auto recorders. The board relies heavily on similar devices, known as "black boxes," in airline and rail accidents. While automakers equip vehicles with the technology, what recorders monitor can vary. The proposed regulation wants, at minimum, data on airbag deployment, speed, engine performance, braking, safety belt use as well as other key mechanical parameters. Use of event recorder information has been controversial and mainly accessible by law enforcement authorities or others — in concert with automakers — with technology to download and "read" the complex data. The government wants to make the information simpler to extract and more widely available to the public and its own safety experts. The majority of automakers have proposed that data, in most cases, only be accessible to the vehicle owner.
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