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NHTSA gets White House OK to mandate vehicle ‘black boxes’

Detroit News – by David Shepardson

Washington — The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is expected to finalize a long-awaited proposal to make event data recorders standard on all new vehicles.

In a notice posted Thursday, the White House Office of Management Budget said it has completed a review of the proposal to make so-called vehicle “black boxes” mandatory in all cars and trucks, clearing the way for NHTSA to publish its final regulation.

Nearly all vehicles currently have the devices.

NHTSA’s proposed rule, which would raise the percentage of vehicles required to have an EDR from 91.6 percent today to 100 percent of light-duty autos, would have an incremental cost of nearly $24.4 million, assuming the sale of 15.5 million light vehicles per year.

In 2010, Congress considered requiring EDRs in all vehicles by legislation.

The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers — the trade group representing Detroit’s Big Three automakers, Toyota Motor Corp, and Volkswagen AG — said the government needs to take into account driver privacy.

“Event data recorders help our engineers understand how cars perform in the real world but looking forward, we need to make sure we preserve privacy. Automakers do not access EDR data without consumer permission, and any government requirements to install EDRs on all vehicles must include steps to protect consumer privacy,” said spokeswoman Gloria Bergquist.

In February 2011, NHTSA said in a White House report that it would make a proposal by the end of 2011 making EDRs mandatory.

That proposal was delayed at the White House Office of Management Budget for more than a year without comment.

NHTSA said in August the agency was still working on making EDRs mandatory.

“The agency has made it a priority to work toward a proposed standard that would mandate these devices on all passenger vehicles on the nation’s roadways,” spokeswoman Lynda Tran said.

“NHTSA remains committed to proposing a standard in the coming months that will help save lives by ensuring both automakers and the agency have the necessary data to make continued improvements in vehicle safety.”

NHTSA says the “rulemaking to mandate EDRs across the entire light-vehicle fleet could contribute to advancements in vehicle designs, and advanced restraint and other safety countermeasures.”

Many automakers already include them in all vehicles, including General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co., Toyota and Mazda Motor Co.

Different automakers collect different data. In 2009, not all Toyota EDRs recorded both pre- and post-crash data. By the end of last year, all Toyota and Lexus vehicles included EDRs that can record both.

In May 2010, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers endorsed making EDRs mandatory in all vehicles, but expressed concerns that some in Congress wanted more elaborate and expensive ones than are available.

The devices have been in use for about 20 years.

GM began widely installing the predecessor version of today’s event data recorders in vehicles in the 1990 model year, and they became standard equipment in light-duty vehicles in the 1995 model year.

NHTSA previously issued a new regulation standardizing data collection for event data recorders.

The rule, issued in August 2006, took effect for the 2013 model year that started Sept. 1, standardizes the information EDRs collect and makes retrieving the data easier. Devices must record 15 data elements, including vehicle deceleration, in specific formats.

The recorders collect data for the seconds of a crash, including whether the driver is wearing a seatbelt, speed and whether the brakes were applied.

From The Detroit News: http://www.detroitnews.com/article/20121206/AUTO01/212060440#ixzz2ENiRQDRU

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