N.H.T.S.A. Sets Standards for Data Collected From Black Boxes in Cars

Beginning next month, new cars equipped with so-called black boxes — instruments that record crash information — must meet certain criteria for categories of data captured, accuracy and crash survivability. But the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is still working on a rule that would require all new cars sold to contain the devices in the first place.

The units are properly called event data recorders, but are popularly known by the same term that is used to describe the data recorders used in aircraft. “Black box” is a mechanic’s shorthand for a component that should not be opened because it can be serviced only by a specialist, and the units on aircraft are a regulation shade of orange. The units in cars, in contrast, actually are often black, or occasionally sliver. They contain a circuit board with a memory chip and a data jack, and standard procedure is to image, or download, their data, rather than remove them.

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