Electronics & Test

NHTSA to Call for Mandatory ‘Black Boxes'

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William K.
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Mandatory Black Boxes
William K.   8/23/2011 1:02:48 PM
What seems to me to have been ignored, and is far more important than who gets to see the data first, is a means to assure the integrity of the data. I can easily imagine an insurance company increasing the speed so as to avoid having to pay a settlement, or a someone having the data changed to show that they were stopped when the collision occurred. LIkewise, a disreputable towing company could alter both the time and GPS location data for vehicles that they steal. So the very most critical thing is a means to assure that no data can be altered after the event, at least not without the fact being obvious. If the data is unchangeable then it becomes far less crucial as to who sees it first Probably the other very important feature would be a means to record who and when, and possibly where, each reading of the data has been done.

Aside from that, an addition to federal law placing the data in the same protected realm as phone conversations, covered by wiretap laws, would complete the solution.

Preventing tampering with the data is probably the most critical, and most expensive, part of the proposal, since an adequate means will require that the hardware be physically secure, since all software methods can be fooled, tricked, spoofed, or compromised in some other manner. The challenge is to prevent re-writing of memory that is intended to be constantly rewritten. One option would be to have a separate nonrewriteable memory resident, and upon trigger the required length of data would be copied into the permanent memory, similar to programming a PROM. That chip would need to be physically replaced to continue use of the black box when the vehicle was repaired.

Jack Rupert, PE
User Rank
The Legal Side
Jack Rupert, PE   6/30/2011 11:45:55 AM
Unfortunately, the various means of securing the data is meaningless without ironclad legal protections.  All of the security simply disappears with a subpoena.  You might not have to testify against yourself, but your car will be able to.  And while an argument might be made for criminal law enforcement, I could see it easily extending into everything from civil cases, insurance cases, domestic cases, etc.

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