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The Black Box in Your Car

The world waits for an answer to what happened to Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, a jet that disappeared during its March 8th, 2014 flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. Investigators believe that the key to unraveling the mystery is in the black box — officially called an event data recorder, or EDR. For this reason, locating the black box is of paramount importance.  Searchers may be on the verge of discovering the lost plane after detecting underwater pulses consistent with signals sent from an EDR. However, at this point, the mystery remains just that — a mystery.

Black boxes have been built into planes for decades. These sturdy EDRs are made to withstand the violent conditions typically associated with a crash, including explosion, fire, corrosion, water damage and forceful impact. That is why investigators remain hopeful that the data on the Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 black box remains secure, if only they could find it. Researchers rely on the vital information recorded during the moments leading up to, during and after an airline crash to determine the cause of an accident.

This same technology is now being applied to cars. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has ordered that, as of September 2014, all new cars must come equipped with a black box. The black box is already installed in most new vehicles. The NHTSA plans to use the black box data to develop safer cars.

In addition, law enforcement and auto accident lawyers in Orlando and throughout the country can investigate criminal and civil liability by reviewing the following types of data recorded by the EDR:

  • Force of impact
  • Engine speed
  • Vehicle speed
  • Steering input
  • Braking status
  • Accelerator position
  • Airbag deployment
  • Seatbelt usage

The NHTSA considers the owner of the vehicle as the owner of the data collected by the black box, but also asserts that state law prevails. Currently, Florida has no legislation specifically covering black box data. However, this issue is sure to play out in the Florida courts during the coming years.

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