George Orwell right again? Black boxes in all cars required by 2014?

James Raia

Another example of the reality of George Orwell’s 1984 will commence in September 2014 if federal regulators get approval to require all new cars to have “black box” data recorders as standard equipment.

Although some new cars already have the devices, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration believes black boxes can help determine the cause of crashes and lead to safer vehicles.

The potential requirement has prompted concerns among privacy advocates who believe the prevention of the misuse of the devices should determined first.

Although some car models have had recorders since the 1990s, a federal requirement automakers disclose their existence in owner’s manuals began three months ago.

Besides the upcoming proposal to put recorders in all new vehicles, the traffic safety administration is also considering expanding the data requirement to include as many as 30 additional types of data such as whether the vehicle’s electronic stability control was engaged, the driver’s seat position or whether the front-seat passenger was belted in.

Some manufacturers already collect the information, and automotive engineers have identified more than 80 useful data points.

The term “black box” usually refers to the mandatory orange-colored flight data recorders in aircraft.

Article Last Updated: December 8, 2012.

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