If the federal government has it's way, by the end of this year it will be mandatory for all new cars to have a black box data recorder.
It's a proposal from the DOT that is long overdue and which will be good for American car buyers.
Yes, I know I'll soon be getting a flood of e-mails from people saying they don't want big brother watching their every move behind the wheel. Relax people, the issue isn't someone spying on your driving habits.
The question is whether we want auto makers to have data recorders in cars to better understand what happens before and after crashes.
We found out last year how important these recorders were when the Toyota unintended acceleration crisis was focusing on why Toyota models would suddenly surge. Time and again we heard from people who swore their car suddenly took off for no reason. Ultimately the data recorders helped determine that there was no link between these cars speeding up and suspicions about faulty electronics.
Furthermore, looking at the data recorders showed the problem was often, but not always, drivers accidentally hitting the gas pedal instead of the brake pedal.
Whether or not you agree with the findings of the investigations into Toyota models suddenly speeding up, the value of the "black boxes" should be clear. Already, most cars and trucks on the road have data recorders, so this proposal won't change things.
But this proposal will be a welcome step in closing the gap and making data recorders mandatory in call cars. And this is just the start. Over time, the black boxes will become more advanced and give auto makers and rule makers a better sense of emerging safety issues.
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