The US Senate has passed a bill that includes the mandating of vehicle data recorders, or black boxes, for the 2015 model year.
Car and Driver reports the annual transportation bill, or an amended version of, must also pass through the US Government's House of Representatives, which it is widely expected to do, before becoming law.
According to Car and Driver, the Senate bill states that devices must "capture and store data related to motor vehicle safety" and that this information is released to an "interoperable data access port". While the bill itself does not define what data is considered related to safety, the US Department of Transportation already has a data set developed that includes 15 different measurements such as direction of acceleration, throttle position, and the instant airbags were fired. These parameters are covered in vehicle data recorders currently used in most vehicles.
Regardless of which specific information is recorded, the Senate bill insists this data must be captured for a "reasonable time period before, during, and after" any crash or airbag event. And this is where the bill in America is dividing people; the issue of sensitive and potentially incriminating data going public.
While data surrounding intake-manifold pressure and air/fuel mixtures might only interest car enthusiasts, information such as speed, throttle position and throttle application could be used as evidence against a driver. On the other hand, recovered data could possibly assist with investigations into fatal collisions, forensic collision reconstructions or even clearing a manufacturer of a perceived vehicle fault.
The bill claims to resolve concerns by making it clear that the vehicle owners themselves own the vehicle data but that the data would be accessible by government agencies through a court order, similar to a search warrant, relevant to specific circumstances. First responders and emergency services such as paramedics would also have access to the data, without a court order, under the proviso it would help with responding to the given emergency.
American legislation requires each house of Congress, the House of Representatives and the Senate to all pass their own variations of a bill prior to being reconciled and becoming law, meaning changes to the bill will surely be made.