Free Markets, Free People

Congress to mandate “black box” on all cars after 2015?

Yesterday I pointed to a piece of legislation that is in the House right now (after being passed by the Senate) which would give the IRS the power to confiscate your passport without judicial review and merely on the suspicion you owe a certain amount of back taxes.

Given the Orwellian name Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act or MAP-21,  the legislation also mandates that all new cars have a “event data recorder” installed starting in 2015.

Now other than for government use, there are very few reasons why an owner of a vehicle would want such a device installed in his or her car.

The only reason an owner might want one was in case of an accident, it may provide some proof of their innocence in terms of fault.  But we’ve become quite sophisticated in accident investigation already and seem quite capable of determining that now without the aid of an onboard “event data recorder”.

Section 31406 of Senate Bill 1813 (known as MAP-21), calls for “Mandatory Event Data Recorders” to be installed in all new automobiles and legislates for civil penalties to be imposed against individuals for failing to do so.

“Not later than 180 days after the date of enactment of this Act, the Secretary shall revise part 563 of title 49, Code of Federal Regulations, to require, beginning with model year 2015, that new passenger motor vehicles sold in the United States be equipped with an event data recorder that meets the requirements under that part,” states the bill.


Although the text of legislation states that such data would remain the property of the owner of the vehicle, the government would have the power to access it in a number of circumstances, including by court order, if the owner consents to make it available, and pursuant to an investigation or inspection conducted by the Secretary of Transportation.

And, one would assume, government access to such data would be expanded as government found additional reasons to want it.  Not to mention the addition of new “recording” devices or the like which might be even more intrusive in the future (if they manage to get away with this).  Like imposing a road use tax.  How handy would such a device be to government then?

This sort of government intrusion bothers the heck out of me.  Never mind that this mandate (along with new CAFÉ standards) will increase the cost of a new car, the real point is this is being done as something government desires, not the individual.  There’s no hew and cry or demand for such a device now.  This serves one constituency and one constituency only – government.

Additionally, it isn’t optional.  You have no choice but to pay for one if you buy a new car.  And you will most likely be prosecuted if you disable it.

These are the sorts of intrusions citizens ought to be fighting tooth and nail.  It isn’t the job of government to mandate recording devices on private vehicles.  If they want to have them installed on their vehicle fleets, that’s fine.

But not mine.  Not without my consent and damn sure not as a mandate with legal consequences for non-compliance.

There are now two reasons MAP-21 should be shot down in the House.


Twitter: @McQandO

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18 Responses to Congress to mandate “black box” on all cars after 2015?

  • It becomes more apparent with each passing day that the Collective wants us out of our cars. If they can’t have that, they will restrict…by fair means or foul…our right to use them. An “event recorder” could easily become a tax assessment device, telling an agency exactly how many miles, at what speeds, you’ve traveled. There should be a verse in “Red Barchetta” about this…

    • @Ragspierre At what speeds, and WHERE. Yeah, no danger of anything going wrong with this is there. Now we’ll all be guilty, just waiting for the government to review the data to determine what we’re guilty of.

    • @Ragspierre Not really. The regs specify it as a crash data recorder, and it is required to erase all but a “reasonable” amount of time before, during, and after the crash. In fact, the regs require so much data to be collected (delta-Vs in multiple axis at very high resolutions, engine data, various control info, etc etc) that it would be unreasonable to store that data to lengths of time that would make it useful as a mileage tracker. If they wanted it for that purpose, they would have to STOP mandating this other info, and .gov never STOPS mandating anything.

      • @everlastingphelps Could we agree that…with storage getting cheaper…a mileage tracker would be very easy to mandate? But I do take your larger point. And good on ya for looking at the reg.

  • Oh, AND used cars are going to be prized and kept for a LOOOOOnNNNNNNg time.

  • I know that newer vehicles have a box already that repair folks can access for performance data, but the fact that this bill is sponsored by Senator (Don’t call me Ma’am) Boxer makes my antenna quiver. My suspicion: the Feds left hand is mandating unobtainable ICE mpg increases and encouraging electric vehicles, and the Fed right hand recognizes that means lower Fed gas taxes….so…mileage tax in the future anyone? Also, I skimmed thru the bill to check out the relevant section and wondered whose job is it to write all this crap? If I looked in the mirror and knew my task today was to write a paragraph for Section 31067, sub section (a), Part ii, I ‘d likely finish off the pint of white lightnin’ and head for the nearest bridge.

  • If you have a 2005+ vehicle, it is probably already on there.

    EDRs aren’t like plane data recorders that record hours of material. The ones currently being used record the last eight seconds, and continue recording two seconds after the airbags are triggered. That’s it.

    We’ve got plenty of privacy concerns in this country. This ain’t one of them. Keep your powder dry and carry on.

    • @everlastingphelps An obvious question is, “Why a mandate when EDRs are common now”? Hmmm….??? Perhaps a QUALITATIVE difference?

      • @Ragspierre Here are the current regs:

        As near as I can tell, the new section of the act makes them mandatory (which seems likely to be a sop to the regulationists for the rest of this), clarifies ownership of the data (which the courts have already determined anyways), requires them to be in a standard format (no having to buy special software from the automaker), and allows the NTSB to gather the data wholesale to do safety studies about.

        • @everlastingphelps So…it IS a qualitative difference. Plus a new mandate in favor of the NTSB.

        • @everlastingphelps Gather data wholesale…I presume that means from the collection point which would be primarily accident data collected by? who collects that anyway?

    • @everlastingphelps I believe FDRs only record the last 30 minutes of flight. IIRC they are on a continuous loop recording only 30 minutes.

  • And don’t think your insurer won’t use this data: x mph over speed limit according to ‘george’ and ergo you were reckless and we don’t cover that.

  • What a horrible bill. I linked you and will help spread the word.

  • They’ll force it on you one way or the other. They’ll eliminate money payments on toll roads soon enough, so they’ll have that data on you, not to mention all the red-light cams, And if the bill doesn’t make it, there will be some stealth regulation that insurers will have to do it instead of the govt. Nationwide already does it – though on a voluntary basis – and you best believe it’s gonna happen. Cars = freedom. Can’t have that anymore.