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All you need to know about Black Boxes in Cars

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Almost all cars on the road today have black boxes. Per their formal name ‚Äď “event data recorder” – these devices record driving and car data immediately before, during, and after a car accident.¬†

Car Black Boxes give crucial evidence in the event of an accident-related injury. The data assists attorneys and law enforcement determine the true cause of a car accident. 


What is a car black box?

A black box in a car collects driving information before, during, and after a collision. This device’s formal name is “event data recorder.” The information collected is speed, acceleration, braking, steering, and airbag activation.

The car manufacturer now installs these event data recorders as a standard feature on all new cars.

What is a Car Black Box?

Is there a black box in your car? How can you tell?

If you have a car from this century, there’s a good possibility it has a black box installed somewhere within it. Since 1994, major American automakers such as Buick, Chevrolet, and Cadillac have used black boxes in their cars.¬†

Since the early 2000s, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has used them to collect data on car accidents.

Is there a Black Box in your car? How can you tell?

In 2013, less than 5% of new cars lacked one, and they have been required in all new cars since 2014. So, where is it if you have one? It’s presumably hidden under your steering wheel and dashboard, but that won’t assist you much. It is not intended to be easily accessible, and there is no way to disable it.¬†

Only the individual who plugs into the connections to read the data will interact with it.

The black box module is typically situated in the car’s center. However, in the majority of cars, it will be positioned within the center console. The car’s black box position allows the ACM to survive external conditions and a collision.

Do all cars have black boxes?

Unless the car is quite old, every car on the road is likely equipped with an event data recorder or black box. Event data recorders are “standard” on many Ford, Chrysler, GM, Toyota, Nissan, and Honda cars.

What information does the black box capture?

Who will be connecting to your car’s black box? It depends. The purpose of the Black Box in your car, similar to that of airplanes, is to avoid future crashes. The Black Box displays data such as your car’s speed, throttle position, brake application, airbag deployment, seatbelt use, steering angles, and a variety of other elements as they were around 20 seconds before, during, and after the incident.¬†

Collecting this data can assist the car manufacturer in determining whether the crash was caused by a preventable human error or a mechanical malfunction in their system.

Pros and cons of having a black box insurance

Finding affordable car insurance might be difficult whether you are a beginner driver or have recently passed your test.

Black box insurance may be a cheaper choice for many new drivers, and the high cost of car insurance for new drivers leads many to believe that a black box will save them money. However, your black box will come with various restrictions, taxes, and penalties, which may result in your insurance costing more than a standard policy.

DuncanvilleFOX GIF


We examine the benefits and drawbacks of a black box.

Cheaper insurance‚ÄėBad driving‚Äô means higher premiums
Monitor your drivingCurfews hours
Evidence in an accidentPenalties for area
Improve your drivingHidden fees

Purpose of black boxes in a car accident

A black box in a car accident can be highly valuable. This is because it collects all types of data. These include car data from before, during, and after the impact. This data can be utilized to determine the causes and the contributing elements of the accident.

Some car owners are concerned that others may utilize this information in ways that do not always benefit the owner, such as the police investigating the accident or the insurance company revising your claim. 

Christina Ricci Privacy GIF by The Roku Channel


Isn’t the information on the Black Box personal and confidential, and only you or those you approve have access to it?

Again, this is a questionable matter. Just nobody can access your Black Box data. Instead, an accident data retrieval device, which can cost up to $20,000, is required, and it must be plugged into the onboard diagnostic connection under your dashboard. 

This equipment is available to your car’s manufacturer, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and police enforcement.¬†

Can they, however, legally have access to this data at any time? Unfortunately, this question has no apparent answer. Only fifteen states have clear legislation governing who and when entities can access crash data recorder information from your car. 

Anyone attempting to access this information without your permission must acquire a court order in these states.

Do insurance companies use information from car black boxes?

No. Car Black Boxes do not allow your insurance provider to spy on how safely you are driving. Insurance companies cannot use the data to establish your premiums unless you consent.

However, suppose you accept your insurer’s offer of a telematics car insurance discount and download your insurer’s tracking app on your phone. In that case, your insurer can gather data 24/7 about your driving patterns.¬†

What should you be aware of w.r.t. black box?

Car’s Black Box is different from Aircraft’s Black Box

Although they have the same name, a car’s black box and an aircraft’s black box are different. The black box in a car stores data to flash memory, which is commonly located in the car’s airbag control module (ACM).¬†

The ACM is a general term for the control module in charge of primary airbags and auxiliary restraint devices like seatbelts. However, each car manufacturer normally refers to their ACM differently.

The Black Box collects a large amount of data

The black box collects a large amount of data

Since 2002, numerous car manufacturers have voluntarily installed EDRs; nevertheless, the specifics of the data gathered (quantity and type of data) vary depending on the manufacturer.

These parameters are as follows:

  • Lateral and longitudinal Delta-V (speed change)
  • Vehicle Indicated Speed
  • Engine Throttle Percentage
  • Brake Status (On/Off)
  • Safety Best Status, Driver

The black box in a car isn’t always black

Contrary to popular belief, many black boxes are not genuinely black.¬†This is especially true in aviation, where the exterior of the black box must be covered with heat and corrosion-resistant orange paint to aid search teams throughout their investigation. In contrast, there are no rules governing a car’s black box exterior color.

Not all black boxes are available for download

This is just partially correct. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) in December 2012, proposing a new Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) requiring all car manufacturers to install Part 563 compliant EDR modules in all of their cars. 

As a result, most car manufacturers have licensing agreements with the most widely used Bosch Crash Data Retrieval (CDR) program.

The Black Box gets replaced when the airbags are replaced

The black box gets replaced when the airbags are replaced

When airbags are deployed, they are replaced rather than repaired or repacked.¬†When this is done, the ACM is usually replaced as well. During a collision with airbag deployment, the ACM stores all valuable crash-related data and “locks” it so that it cannot be wiped or overwritten. As a result, when replacing airbags, a new ACM is necessary.

However, some auto shops will reset and reprogram the ACM rather than replace it because it can still work as a safety deployment device.

car black boxes

Bottom line

Remember that the black box is mostly there for your advantage and safety. It may also reveal useful information about your car, which may aid in preventing similar accidents in the future.

You might want to check the National Conference of State Legislatures for your state’s specific black box laws. These regulations are likely to develop as more cars on the road install black boxes and data gathering and analysis tools improve, but it’s a good idea to know where you stand with your automobile data right now.¬†

You should know who can view that data in the event of a crash, who is likely to acquire access to that data, and the extent to which you can deny them access if you believe it is required.

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