Now That Cars Have Black Boxes, Are You Being Tracked?

Who gets access to the info in your vehicle’s event data recorder? A black box, for­mal­ly known as an event data recorder (EDR), and infor­mal­ly known as a narc-in-the-box, logs a vari­ety of data regard­ing the oper­a­tion of the vehi­cle in which it’s installed.

The good news is that EDRs do not (yet) track your loca­tion, nor do they beam real-time infor­ma­tion to feds, cops, car­mak­ers, or moth­ers-in-law. That’s what your smart­phone is for.

EDRs, stan­dard these days in 96 per­cent of new cars, do, how­ev­er, take note of how fast you’re going and whether you’re wear­ing your seat belt, along with details like the sta­tus of your car’s throt­tle and brakes at any giv­en moment. This is the sort of data most like­ly to have legal impli­ca­tions, par­tic­u­lar­ly in the event of an acci­dent.

Police and lawyers can indeed sub­poe­na the data from your car’s EDR and use it against you.

The info can also make its way into the hands of your insur­ance com­pa­ny, which might join author­i­ties in tak­ing a dim view of the fact that you thought to apply the brakes only after you’d sailed off the end of the pier toward that pass­ing barge haul­ing kit­tens and dyna­mite.

This arti­cle orig­i­nal­ly appeared in Pop­u­lar Mechan­ics.

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