Black Boxes Are Not GPS

However, for those of us that have GPS in our vehicles … your speed can be determined by the GPS device itself. Continually. Just ask this guy.

Now, on to the issue of those Black Boxes in vehicles we drive:

First, they don’t broadcast. They record. They store only the last so many seconds of data in the event of a crash and/or activation of the airbags. And if you think they haven’t been in any vehicle yet, I’d recommend you look here to see if your car may have one already. My 2007 Silverado truck does.

This all boils down to – are these going to be a help, or the opposite. That depends.

It depends if you are going to be a victim, or the opposite. If you like to speed or drive recklessly, I have news for you – even without such a black box in your vehicle you could have related problems as simple as a ticket, or much worse. I only mention this as a reality, not from a legal or constitutional standpoint.

There is a lot of misinformation out there pertaining to what these boxes do, will do. Get technically informed, then argue the finer points of – should these be employed, or not. Should you be able to face your accuser, even – and especially – if it is an emotionless pile of technology.
Most recently there have been statements from various outfits that we will soon have no choice about having these in every vehicle in the United States. Such as here, here, here and here.

Some still say the issue is being “considered” rather than going to happen: Here, here and here.

The issue of such black boxes in our vehicles goes back in time as far back as 1974 (as I have found so far). Some examples: Article from Feb 2010.

Article from June 2003: (an excerpt)

The devices’ primary function is to monitor various sensors and decide whether to fire air bags. But secondary and more recently installed features in many recorders store data from a few seconds before a crash.

Though capabilities vary widely among carmakers, most recorders store only limited information on speed, seat belt use, physical forces, brakes and other factors. Voices are not recorded.

General Motors Corp. has been using recording-capable devices, called Sensing and Diagnostic Modules (search), since the 1990s to help improve safety and gather statistics. GM spokesman Jim Schell said consumer privacy has always been a top concern.

Article from August 2003: (excerpt)

Black boxes—event data recorders like the ones found in airliners—are increasingly common in automobiles and vary from one type of car to another. But cars with airbags have long had onboard computers with the sensors and software necessary to determine within 1/100 of a second that you’re in a crash; that’s how cars know when to deploy the bags. These computers, called sensing and diagnostic modules, are located inside the transmission hump, behind the dashboard, or under the seat, and constantly collect and process data on the car’s acceleration or deceleration. Airbag-equipped cars made by General Motors (which owns Cadillac) have had SDMs since 1974.

Beginning in the 1999 model year, though, GM upgraded SDMs to include an event data recorder. The newer SDMs track the car’s speed (from the speedometer), engine RPM, the exact position of the gas pedal, and whether or not the brake pedal was pressed, among other statistics. The SDM keeps the previous five seconds’ worth of this data in its onboard memory and, if the airbags are deployed, saves the most recent five seconds as a snapshot of events leading up to a possible collision. Ford and Isuzu added similar features to some models in this decade. Santa Barbara-based Vetronix sells a $2,500 “crash data recovery” gadget that will download the logs from these computers (the company lists what years and models it works with, and what data is recoverable).

Auto engineers designed and installed event-logging SDMs to study accidents and improve their cars’ safety, but the data from the boxes has also proven admissible in court.


4 responses to “Black Boxes Are Not GPS

  1. Hi, i think that i saw you visited my blog so i came to “return the favor”.I’m trying to find things to enhance my website!I suppose its ok to use a few of your ideas!!

  2. […] Black Boxes Are Not GPS | Daniel McAndrew […]

  3. Dan, Not true! It is commonly known that the black boz was used by researchers to determine that the last words uttered were commonly Oh Jesus, Oh sh*t except i nredneck states where the last words typically are Hold my beer and watch this, and California where hte last words most often are Dude! I’m so stoned I almost think we’re about to slam a truck.

  4. Jeremy, alright -0wn up now. Where did you attach that recorder in my truck??

    heh heh, you card.

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