By Marc Emden, Esq.

Most of you know that planes contain black boxes that record in-flight data, such as aircraft speed and trajectory. But did you know that your car is probably quipped with a black box too? According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 96% of model year 2013 and newer cars already have a black box, or an Event Data Recorder (EDR), as it is known.

What EDRs actually record varies from manufacturer to manufacturer and can include about 30 different variables. An EDR will record such data as whether brakes were applied before a collision, or whether airbags deployed, but it may also record audio or video of the passenger compartment, and the car’s GPS coordinates.

This is a graphic demonstrating an Event Data Recorder.

EDRs are now increasingly being used by law enforcement for accident reconstruction and forensic purposes, as well as by Maryland DUI attorneys in civil and criminal cases that result from car crashes. For example in Maryland, EDR data is routinely used when deciding whether to charge an individual with crimes like Manslaughter by Vehicle, as well as during the prosecution of those crimes.

While EDRs can be useful in reconstructing what transpired in an accident, there are a number of privacy concerns. For example, there is currently no way to turn off or opt-out of EDR tracking, so it is potentially recording information around the clock. There is also the question of who gets to see the data. Maryland currently has no laws restricting access to EDR data.

Furthermore, as cars become more and more computerized, it is feasible to think that both police officers and hackers will be able to access EDR data remotely. Many other functions of modern cars have already been hacked in just such a manner. Want to to learn more? Read our full article about EDRs.