UNDERSTAND EVERYTHING – Why new car models are equipped with black boxes

As with airplanes, black boxes will be gradually installed in our cars from 6 July. This innovation should make it possible to store driving data immediately after a traffic accident in order to be able to more easily identify the circumstances.

From 6 July 2022, new car models homologated in the EU must be equipped with a black box. Its official name: “Event Data Recorder” (EDR) or “event data recorder” in French.

This unit detects driving parameters a few seconds before an accident (speed, acceleration or braking phase, or collision force, among others). The main idea is to be able to store driving data right after a traffic accident to be able to more easily identify the circumstances. According to the Public Services website, the goal is to reduce the number of traffic accidents.

• What is a black box?

A black box is a connected box that contains an electronic chip that records a car’s driving data for later analysis, especially in the event of an accident. This device records speed, engine speed, acceleration and braking phases, headlight information, turn signals, seat belt use, airbag deployment and even GPS coordinates. It will also make it possible to know the exact level of pollutant emissions.

These boxes are “deaf” and the recording is not continuous. Thus, this data will be stored on each trip on loops in seconds, a bit like a dashcam. They are then crushed gradually. It is only in the event of an accident that they will be stored from 30 seconds before to 30 seconds after the collision, materialized at the triggering of the airbags.

Since the idea is to concentrate on essential data, not too cumbersome to store, the photos taken by the car will not be saved, knowing that we generally have cameras today on modern cars everywhere. The sound on board will also not be preserved, as is the case for black boxes in civil aviation.

• Why introduce this new regulation?

This new regulation is intended to assist the police in the event of an accident investigation. If necessary, this memory card can be restored by the local authorities for their examination. However, the black box may not know if the driver has ingested alcohol or narcotics, whether he is texting or watching a video. It is also impossible to determine who is driving.

The goal is to reduce accidents by discouraging bad drivers from committing offenses or engaging in risky driving. According to the European Union, the installation of these devices could make it possible to reduce the number of road deaths by 20%. This figure is what was achieved in the United States, where black boxes have been used for more than five years.

The second function of these boxes will be to check the manufacturers’ data on pollutant emissions. Thus, it will be easy to know if the real data is consistent with what is official.

To avoid disabling the system, the black box is not only sealed but also installed in an inaccessible place that is kept secret from the car owner.

• Which vehicles are affected?

This accessory will be installed little by little. From July, new car models homologated in the EU will be equipped with it. Thus, we are not even talking about new vehicles assembled on a new platform. It will therefore not deal with, for example, Renault’s new SUV, Austral, which will be released at the end of the year, because it is assembled on an already existing platform and it has already been approved. The future R5, on the other hand, should be equipped.

From May 2024, all new cars marketed must also be equipped with it. However, black boxes have already been installed in some cars in circulation, such as Teslas. A simple software update will activate them.

• And the data?

The information is subject to the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). They will only be used in the event of an accident, and only investigators, legal authorities or research institutes will have access to them. Insurance companies will not have access to this.

As required by the GDPR, the information collected will be anonymised. The recorder will therefore not make it possible to identify the vehicle, to know its registration or the identity of its owner or driver. Finally, the conversations will not be recorded as in the planes equipped with one box for the data and another for the audio recordings.

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