New Car Purchases: Mandatory Black Box Installed

Beginning in June of 2011, all new cars manufactured and sold in the United States will be required to have a mandated black box device installed, which can be used to monitor several different physical and technical data points.

On May 24th, a report on the new regulatations to be implemented by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) next month expands the program that in February was just in a consideration phase.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is expected to issue new regulations next month, that will require a black box style data recorder be fitted in all new cars.

Similar in concept to the familiar black boxes used in commercial aircraft for decades, the boxes are expected to record information about speed, seat belt use and brake application in the final seconds leading up to an accident, the data can be retrieved for later analysis. –

The installation and use of these black boxes can have infinite possibilities for local, state, and federal governments to monitor and record data for a number of other revenue programs that are currently under consideration.  In March, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) issued a proposal to institute a tax on mileage to help pay for the federal budget deficit.  Additionally, local cities and counties can download information from these black boxes, and they can be used to issue driving citations after the fact in the case of speeding or not wearing a seat belt.

While the concept of installing a black box in new automobiles has several good points in assisting law enforcement and emergency services as to the location and circumstances of an accident or road emergency, policies currently underway by many municipalities and states show that public safety personnel are now being used more as revenue collectors than as first responders to incidents as they occur.
In addition, current mobile devices outside the automobile black box such as androids and tom-toms are being used by law enforcement to retrieve data on customer travel.

That’s a theoretical problem, a real problem is the fact that the data is being used to setup police revenue sources such as speed cameras. A Dutch firm has openly admitted that they use TomTom customer data to setup speed traps. So this anonymized data is actually being used to cost you money for something that isn’t actually dangerous as currently implemented (in other words speed limits aren’t actually a safety limit but an arbitrarily selected number). –

Selling the public on safety for new policies and provisions, while using the programs to create new revenue streams is becoming more the norm than simply isolated incidents.  When the tax on cigarettes became enlarged under the guise of helping users stop the addiction, expanding the tax soon turned into the first concession by local legislatures when they needed new money for programs.  Add to this, the creation of red-light and speed devices on local streets and highways to monitor safety quickly became massive revenue streams for municipalities.

With mandatory black boxes being installed in all new cars sold in the US starting next month, the public needs to be aware of the potential these devices can have as means to collect revenue for states and the federal government outside the reported use by the NHTSA as a safety device. (