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Black Boxes to Track Driving Habits? 867

Posted by michael
from the pull-up-pull-up dept.
Nofsck Ingcloo writes "Nando Times is reporting on a new model of black boxes to track teens' driving habits. 'This is like having a parent sitting next to him second by second.... The kids don't like it, but the parents love it.... Originally developed... for ambulances and fire trucks to reduce crashes, the black box is a stripped-down version of that model.' So, how long before the insurance companies persuade the states to mandate these devices in every car? Or raise our rates hugely and then give a little of it back if we put in the box?"

Another submitter sent in a related submission about the collision data recorders in many late-model cars - which serve a similar purpose as the black boxes described above, but generally only record the last five seconds before an accident.

geemon writes "With the recent stories of rental car companies using GPS to track how and where their patrons are using their vehicles, this information about autos from 1996 and newer having an airplane-like accident "black box" capability was a complete surprise. Tucked under the drivers seat of most GM vehicles, the "black box" can store a variety of info such as vehicle and engine speed, braking, and seat belt usage. Info from an accident reconstruction service that uses this data can be found here. Called "event data recorders", these devices were, "...Originally designed to improve air bag performance based on the severity of the collision, the event data recorder can tell traffic accident investigators about the car's speed; engine RPMs; how far the accelerator pedal was pressed; if the brakes were applied; whether the drivers seatbelt was buckled and what warning lights were on - all from five seconds before impact..." It seems that GM and perhaps Ford have been using this for some time. Here is one company that makes the Windows based retrieval hardware/software combo for $2500. Imagine the uses of this data that law enforcement, your insurance company, and lawyers may have after your next little mishap."

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Black Boxes to Track Driving Habits?

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  • by www.sorehands.com (142825) on Wednesday July 24, 2002 @07:30PM (#3948083) Homepage
    It may not be at that detail, but insurance companies are taking the car's onboard computer when they total the vehicle.

    If you are in an accident and the other party's insurance company takes the vehicle, they will check the black box to try to shift the liability from their client onto you.

    • I believe that "Carmageddon 3 -- Carpocalypse Now" had event recorders in each of the automobiles. Otherwise the slow-motion replay wouldn't have been as accurate as it was.

      BTW, does anybody know if this game runs under Wine? I would love to play it again, except that I toasted my Windows partition.

    • by Xaoswolf (524554) <(Xaoswolf) (at) (gmail.com)> on Wednesday July 24, 2002 @08:45PM (#3948528) Homepage Journal
      You can get these just the way they say right now. It's a volentary thing that a parent can put into their kids car. Wouldn't be that bad of an idea, but I wouldn't want it to be able to be used in court unless both cars had one. Sure the one in my kids car could say that my kid was going 10MPH over the limit, but it wouldn't say that the other car was on the wrong side of the road, going 2x the speed limit, or didn't have his lights on...
  • Dude... (Score:5, Funny)

    by eyepeepackets (33477) on Wednesday July 24, 2002 @07:31PM (#3948087)
    ...you're getting a bell!
  • not quite (Score:5, Funny)

    by faeryman (191366) on Wednesday July 24, 2002 @07:31PM (#3948088) Homepage
    Larry Selditz will begin selling a teenager's worst nightmare in November - a small black box placed in a car that allows parents to track exactly how their child is driving on the highways.

    No. A teenager's worst nightmare would be a little black box that reports their "parking" *winkwink* habits, not driving.
    • by unicron (20286) <unicron&thcnet,net> on Wednesday July 24, 2002 @07:48PM (#3948201) Homepage
      Of course, your father always got to see:

      10:20:37: NOTHING TO REPORT.
      10:25:46: NOTHING TO REPORT.
      10:37:33: NOTHING TO REPORT.
      10:49:23: NOTHING TO REPORT.
      10:55:22: POLICE PRESENCE DETECTED. OFFICER LEAVES IN DISGUST AFTER WITNESSING DRIVER SITTING IN BACK EATING ICE CREAM SANDWICH ALONE.
      11:05:29: NOTHING TO REPORT.
      11:17:01: NOTHING TO REPORT.
    • Say your kid says he's taking a girl to a given movie theatre. You know how far away it is. If you see from the box that the kid stopped the car for an extended period in a place that wasn't the same distance away as the theatre - or wherever he said he was going - then you can conclude you kid's been parking. Or sitting perfectly still in odd places for no reason.
    • Re:not quite (Score:4, Insightful)

      by mosch (204) on Wednesday July 24, 2002 @11:17PM (#3949173) Homepage
      Maybe I'm off-base here, but I wouldn't want to know what was going on. I know that boys drive like idiots on purpose, girls drive like idiots by accident, and both of them occasionally use the cars for puroposes other than transportation.

      Any parent who gets one of these really needs to reevaluate their relationship with their kid, and their parenting techniques.

  • Paranoia (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Wrexen (151642) on Wednesday July 24, 2002 @07:31PM (#3948094) Homepage
    So, how long before the insurance companies persuade the states to mandate these devices in every car? Or raise our rates hugely and then give a little of it back if we put in the box?

    Can we stop with the black-helicopters-are-watching-me-through-the-tele phone tin-foil hat paranoia for just a day or two? This kind of sensationalizing gets really old when every single piece of technology is just another tool for The Man to spy on us, regardless of legitimate uses (sound familiar?) it might have.
    • Reminds me of a recent penny arcade strip:

      Penny-Arcade [penny-arcade.com]
    • Fact: Insurance companies are test-marketing the idea of providing insurance based on actual tracked usage.

      Fact: This particular "black box" device is being marketed to regular Joe's to let them track other people's usage.

      Fact: Insurance companies are in it for the money - specifically, in it to pay out as little as possible to improve their shareholder's investments.

      The paranoia is justified, IMO.
    • Can we stop with the black-helicopters-are-watching-me-through-the-tele phone tin-foil hat paranoia for just a day or two?

      It is not paranoia, because a) car rental agencies already use black boxes to track renters and b) insurance companies already "mandate" certain equipment through bump-and-discount pricing. Putting the two together is simply the logical conclusion.

    • Yea. I get this attitude a lot when working with IT departments to mitigate various infosec vulnerabilities in their environment. My findings are obviously so much black-helicopter paranoia theory that one would have to be wearing tinfoil hats to buy in to it. I think they check for the hat. Then its a big mystery when a host is compromised, a worm/virus is busy chewing up people's precious data, or someone is caught after a long time of exploiting a hole in some automated tool to embezzle funds in some manner.

      Sure - if you want to get in to name calling, its fairly easy to label anybody raising these concerns as a conspiracy-nut. But then, its also just as easy to label anybody refusing to look at the issue as sheep.

      Address the issue.
  • by Perianwyr Stormcrow (157913) on Wednesday July 24, 2002 @07:33PM (#3948104) Homepage
    First, either kids or criminals. Then whichever of the first two wasn't gotten. Then, those who'll accept extra benefits for it (generally implemented by removing said pre-existing benefits and then only giving what you had before back if you submit.)

    Finally, it's mandatory.

    This is the time to oppose this stuff and set limits if there will ever be any at all.

    • Finally, it's mandatory.

      I've been racking my brain, but I just can't think of any examples of your progression. At least in the US. Can you help me out by naming at least one tracking technology to demonstrate the possibility of your thesis, and at least two to demonstrate its viability?
  • Wardriving (Score:3, Funny)

    by Myuu (529245) <myuu@pojo.com> on Wednesday July 24, 2002 @07:34PM (#3948105) Homepage
    My Parents:"Collin...Why is it that you seem to slow down when driving by large buildings and stop for short periods of time in the parking lots of large corporations"
  • Well.. (Score:4, Troll)

    by Axe (11122) on Wednesday July 24, 2002 @07:34PM (#3948111)
    They already manadated GPS use in our cell-phones.
    [listening to silence]... Do I hear any outcries? No.

    Americans will swallow this just like pervasive credit history control, mandatory live long ID numbers (hello, Soviet Union), "Under GOD!" daily pledges (fuck those atheists), Id check, face recognition, mandatory 10-day address registration for all non-citizens.. and list goes on and on..
    Losers.

  • by teetam (584150) on Wednesday July 24, 2002 @07:34PM (#3948112) Homepage
    They can put whatever they want in it, as long as it doesn't hinder my driving. When I sign a contract, I am bound by its rules. The rental company can add any device to the car to track and enforce these rules. As long as they make sure the penalties are fair, I don't see anything wrong with the concept. In fact, black boxes might help determine the cause of serious accidents.

    People who disagree can use public transportation. Hopefully, mass transit will get a much needed boost because of people who are unwilling to be tracked.

    • You cannot live a full life in the US when you're carless outside of very specific urban areas.

      This is most evident in places such as Atlanta, GA- the entire Gwinnett County area is one giant sprawl with no interconnection, so it's likely that anything you want to do is 5-10 miles away from you at any given point, with no public transit between here and there.
    • You've been modded as a troll but you have a valid opinion.

      I agree anyway.

      I really have not seen a single post that validates objecting to having something like this in your car. In fact a lot of the arguments against it are really for it in my mind.

      Someone said "It violates the 5th amendment- your own car can testify against you"

      Ignoring how really wrong that statment is legally- the flipside is what I like about these systems. In the case of an accident we can have FACTS as opposed to conjecture.

      Some have said this wont stop accidents or save lives. (I disagree but it doesn't matter.) That's not the point. The point is knowing what happened- so that blame is not put upon the wrong person.

      What valid activity or freedom could be hindered by this? I would like to hear some rational scenarios where this kind of thing could limit your 'rights'.

      .
    • by shepd (155729)
      >As long as they make sure the penalties are fair, I don't see anything wrong with the concept.

      Neither do I (to a certain degree), but I think a rider needs to be tacked onto that.

      If you are going to charge a large penalty (over, say, $50) you should verbally and visually (as in a BIG RED SIGN IN ALL CAPS) warn the renter of just how much trouble they could be in.

      I know you should read all of a contract, but in reality, we don't have time to read all of them, and we just assume that if a company has such an egregious policy that they'd let us know the "nice" way. (I mean, do you really want to be sued over your policy? Its just that much more airtight when you let the person know verbally as well as in the contract).
  • Not that new (Score:3, Interesting)

    by wraithgar (317805) <michaelNO@SPAMcomrade.us> on Wednesday July 24, 2002 @07:35PM (#3948114) Homepage Journal
    I swear this isn't a brand-spanking-new thing.
    I remember seeing a "consumer report" on 20/20 (or a similar newsprogram) about this device being put in new cars without the knowledge of the buyers. It was also illegal to remove it.
    Anyone have any better memory than I and can provide more detail?
    • I saw that. IIRC, A laywer got on in his brand-new luxury car. He was in an accident (not his fault, I believe) That's when he finds out that they he had one of these, he calls the maker, who claims they were using it to gather information to improve the car. He sues them, claiming he had not given them permission, and therefore they were violating his rights.
  • What's the problem? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by FatRatBastard (7583) on Wednesday July 24, 2002 @07:35PM (#3948116) Homepage
    With the "Last 5 second" black box I don't see much of a threat to privacy. It isn't like they're tracking where you're going or keeping tabs of any driving habits, and its certainly not reporting anything back to anyone without actual physical contact. Since you own the car (and thus the black box) I would assume that if anyone did want to get ahold of it against your will they would have to get a court order.

    Frankly I'd like to have one of these babies in my car. It would remove a lot of uncertainty around what caused an accident: ("As you can see Judge, I was indeed stopped and my brake lights were working when the idiot rear ended me")
    • I would assume that if anyone did want to get ahold of it against your will they would have to get a court order.

      If these boxes become mandatory, and they will, you will not be allowed to withhold the evidence anymore than you can keep the police from examining the rest of your vehicle.

      Frankly I'd like to have one of these babies in my car. It would remove a lot of uncertainty around what caused an accident: ("As you can see Judge, I was indeed stopped and my brake lights were working when the idiot rear ended me")

      If the device were reliable, that might be right. But you can't read the box yourself so you can never verify it, can you? In fact, you have no idea what the evil little thing is collecting or how accurate it is, do you? When you get a letter from your insurace company informing you that your risk category has been changed how will you be able to defend yourself? You can't, you will simply suck it up and pay.

      Nice talking to you again, little rodent. You are always so wrong headed.

      • If these boxes become mandatory, and they will, you will not be allowed to withhold the evidence anymore than you can keep the police from examining the rest of your vehicle.

        Legally, I have a hard time believing this, since the data on this is not "obvious" and "out in the open," in much the same way a cop can't go through your underware drawer even if he has a warrent to search your house for a stolen TV. Of course, IANAL and would like to actually hear someone with a legal background's thoughts.

        IIf the device were reliable, that might be right. But you can't read the box yourself so you can never verify it, can you? In fact, you have no idea what the evil little thing is collecting or how accurate it is, do you? When you get a letter from your insurace company informing you that your risk category has been changed how will you be able to defend yourself? You can't, you will simply suck it up and pay.

        Nor do I know *exactly* how most of the stuff I own works. All kinds of nasty stuff could be going on in my pinball machine (maybe Gottlieb is tracking my every multiball). Now, if something legal takes place that involves the black box then its accuracy is going to become central in a court case (remember Simpson and DNA). If its shown to be inaccurate then kiss it goodbye as evidence.

        And just how is the insurance company going to raise my rates? Are they going to sneak into my garage each and every night and download the data? Uh, NO. The only way they see the blackbox is after an accident. But, since I'd just been in an accident they're already raising my rates, which is exactly the same thing to do right now. I would argue that it just may help keep your rates down (since there's more proof over who's at fault), but these are insureance companies afterall. That said, I still fail to see how this black box would change anything for the worse.
    • The problem is the eventuality of these becoming mandatory (As they already are on many General Motors verhicles.). Having it around voluntarily is fine, as long as we make sure to keep it that way. It becomes a problem when a car company like GM puts it into the car with no way to deactive or remove it and keep the car running, or worse, when the government mandates all American cars containing a tattletale device such as this one.
      • Oh, it will always be voluntary.

        You VOLUNTEER to pay a much higher insurance rate, or you VOLUNTEER to have the black box. It's that simple.

        As for the mandatory car insurance laws, they use the same logic. Either you VOLUNTEER to get car insurance, or you VOLUNTEER to not drive.

        I think they used the same logic in the Soviet Union. Either you VOLUNTEER to become a party member, or you VOLUNTEER to relocate to Siberia. . .
    • by Myriad (89793) <myriad@@@thebsod...com> on Wednesday July 24, 2002 @08:18PM (#3948357) Homepage
      Since you own the car (and thus the black box) I would assume that if anyone did want to get ahold of it against your will they would have to get a court order.

      No you don't own the car - or rather, you won't in a moment.

      Having been in a crash that totaled my vehicle (gotta love people who turn left in front of you without looking) I can tell you what happens:
      After the police and reporting nonsense your vehicle (or parts remaining of) go to a garage or adjusters location to be assessed. Once assessed the insurance company will tell you how much they will give you for it.

      Here's the catch: They are buying the car off you.

      When you go to collect your $ you sign and turn over the ownership, giving the insurance company total ownership. They are now free to do what they will with it... including checking the "black box".

      So if you're car is totaled you might want to pull the box if you can. Mind you, they might have a few questions for you about where it went.

      • So if you're car is totaled you might want to pull the box if you can. Mind you, they might have a few questions for you about where it went.

        Well, while its still your property its still ok. Now, if they make it a condition of your insurance policy that you must also "sell" them the black box in order to recieve compensation (I'd wager they would) you have a point.

        But....

        I'm still having a hard time figuring out how the last 5 seconds of data is going to be of any use (ok, maybe actuarial data) to the insurance company above and beyond helping figure out the cause of the crash.
        • by Myriad (89793) <myriad@@@thebsod...com> on Wednesday July 24, 2002 @08:41PM (#3948504) Homepage
          I'm still having a hard time figuring out how the last 5 seconds of data is going to be of any use (ok, maybe actuarial data) to the insurance company above and beyond helping figure out the cause of the crash.

          Something like this:
          Insurance Co: So Mr. Andersen, in the accident report it says you were going 55mph at the time of the accident.
          You: yes, that's correct.
          Insurance Co: Really? That's very interesting! You see, according to this little black box your car was doing 70mph.
          You: uhhhhh
          Insurance Co: You should be careful doing that, your car could race up behind you and hit you in the ass.

  • But I suspect that most people, like the people who live in Alaska, will just stop paying insurance rates.

    Seriously. People in Alaska get into accidents, and then they don't fix their car. Every other car on the road has a big dent in it.
  • by MongooseCN (139203) on Wednesday July 24, 2002 @07:36PM (#3948123) Homepage
    After it's installed how hard is it to take out and leave somewhere?

    Johnny pulls in the drive way after coming from a techno drug laden rave fest...

    "Johnny, as your parents we're starting to become concerned about you..."

    "W..What do you mean?"

    "Well according to our black box, you've been spending 7 hours a night at the movies."

    "Oh, uh.. right. Ya, uh.. I admit it, I'm a movie junkie."
    • ...if it costs 300 bucks and can be installed "in minutes" by anyone.

      I imagine it would be simple enough just to disable it when you feel like it, and make everyone wonder.
    • Remove it?

      Step 1: Unscrew cover to expose circuit board.
      Step 2: Pop hood.
      Step 3: Retrieve jumper cables from trunk (you are in the Midwest, right?)
      Step 4: Connect jumper cables to battery.
      Step 5: Apply cables to circuit board.
      Step 6: Return items to original position.
      Step 7: Feign ignorance.

      Easy 'nuff.

  • hmm.... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by neksys (87486) <grphillips AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday July 24, 2002 @07:39PM (#3948136)
    I can understand why black boxes are in airplanes - its a huge liability issue. The more info gathered on crashes that do happen may reduce the chances of paying customers dying in the future. It makes good sense from a PR point of view. However, I would contend that black boxes in cars would do little to alleviate motor vehicle related deaths. We know *why* people crash: Many drivers are goddamned morons. We know that many teens are goddamned morons on the road as well - we don't need a black box to tell us that. Rather than putting these black boxes in cars to spy on our teens, we need to deal with the cause, not the symptoms: bad teen driving comes from a combination of outside pressure, overconfidence and under-training. For heavens sake - invest the money in teen driving training instead of these boxes! And parents, do us ALL a favour: Stop buying your children these expensive rockets on wheels!! Make them get a job to buy their OWN vehicle - it'll make them think twice before doing anything stupid that might wreck it.
    • The aviation industry could teach us a thing or two about how to use this kind of data.

      The system there is aimed at exactly what neksys said, reducing the chance of people dying in the future. The regulatory structure is aimed at encouraging people to cooperate with accident investigators by protecting them against getting sued or prosecuted for telling the truth to the NTSB.

      To be comparable, the motor vehicle laws would have to make black boxes inadmissible in prosecutions and maybe even off-limits in lawsuits.

      Anyone else notice the workaround, by the way? If I read correctly the data are in a circular buffer which is replaced every 250 engine starts. If the car's safe to start after a crash, an unscrupulous owner could clear the accident recording simply by turning the key on and off repeatedly.
      • http://www.harristechnical.com/cdr5.htm

        From this page, it seems that recorders like this are treated as any other sort of evidence. I don't see any that aren't related to a car accident in some way, though. The real test case would be one that involved tapping of the recorder data under another circumstance.

        It seems obvious that the next step that's needed is to get some real regulations in this arena- NTSB investigation regulations could probably be easily extended to cover these devices.
    • did you read the article?
      The boxes emit a loud noise when the driver does somnthing wrong. And it gets loder if they turn the radio up. so if your speeding it annoys the hell out of you so you slow down.
      Also, it would be nice to use it to help my kids become better drivers. Yes it can help people become better drivers by letting them evaluate there habits.

      Its NOT spying if they know its there. BTW, teens need to be spied on.
      • Re:hmm.... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by neksys (87486) <grphillips AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday July 24, 2002 @08:00PM (#3948269)
        Its NOT spying if they know its there. BTW, teens need to be spied on

        I know there are US operatives at home and abroad covertly seeking out terrorists. Are they not spying? And no, teens do not need to be spied on - they need to be instilled with a good set of values at an early age, then be allowed to make their own mistakes. Guided and watched, yes - much like how you taught them to ride their two-wheeler, but spied on, no. If you only spy on them, they'll never lose their training wheels - I hope you realize that, if you're a parent.

    • Re:hmm.... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Bishop (4500)
      In is not just the new drivers (teens). A large number of drivers are really unsafe. In North America we treat driving as a right instead of the privilege it is.
    • I think these black boxes would have a significant effect. No parent likes to think his teen boy may be a moron. But, if confronted with the undeniable evidence from the black box, some parents might wake up to the hard reality: their kid IS a moron, indeed. Those parents would invest in added training for their own particular teen kid.

      Let's not waste resources, most teens will learn to drive very well with the available training, but a few exceptions, who cause most of the accidents, need a bit more attention. "Black boxes" monitoring driving habits would help identify those cases where extra training would be most needed.

    • We know that many teens are goddamned morons on the road as well - we don't need a black box to tell us that. Rather than putting these black boxes in cars to spy on our teens, we need to deal with the cause, not the symptoms: bad teen driving comes from a combination of outside pressure, overconfidence and under-training. For heavens sake - invest the money in teen driving training instead of these boxes!

      Nice teen rant. To bad the woman who totaled my van was in her 40's.

      I would've liked to have the data myself: throw it back at the cop who tossed me in the back of her cruiser for 2hrs claiming I was "DUI" when in fact I had 0 BAL and she was at fault (turned left in front of me while I had a green). The fact that people on the scene backed up my story didn't seem to matter.

      You see, if you are male and twentysomething you are automatically at fault for anything.

      Remember, cops are never predujical...

      • Remember, cops are never predujical...

        That has to be one of my more creative typo's. Lets try that again,

        Cops are never prejudicial...

        Much better. Oh, and when I said it was "her fault" I meant the other driver and not the cop. Thank insert-deity-here I didn't hit her!

  • by Skyshadow (508) on Wednesday July 24, 2002 @07:40PM (#3948150) Homepage
    The problem is that these things take no account for actual traffic conditions.

    In the real world, nobody ever drives the speed limit under good driving conditions. Realistic freeway speeds are at least 80 in nondeveloped areas, and cars going under that speed are actually at increased risk.

    Besides, nothing like this will ever stop the experimentation kids do in cars. In my younger days, I did donuts in the empty church parking lot, caught air on the Spooner St. bridge, drove my car over a lawn or two, etc. No excessive speed involved (you'd jump Spooner doing 35).

    IMO, your best bet is to buy your kid a fairly modern, safe car without too much extra juice (try a Toyota with side-curtain airbags with traction control and ABS, or a Volvo if it's in your means) -- buying kids old cars is actually more dangerous due to the lack of modern safety gear. Those parents buying their kids Z3's... well, that's just natural selection at work.

    Base lesson: No good ever came of spying on your kids and making it clear you don't have any trust for them.

    • by neksys (87486) <grphillips AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday July 24, 2002 @07:48PM (#3948195)
      Or don't buy your kids cars at ALL. That's where the, "I can do what I want with this car, mommy and daddy will just buy me a new one" mentality comes from.
      • True, but the flip side of that is that most kids won't be able to afford a safe car on their own and will end up with an old Pinto or something.

        The best solution is probably the one my parents used: figure out how much I make an hour, then subsidize a decent-but-not-insane used car to a price where it represented a *lot* of work. I got a used Buick LaSabre for $1000, which was about 150 hours of grunt work at a local pharmacy for me, and my parents covered the rest.

        • Agreed - that's my primary point, that working for the car is the key. The point is that a kid's hard earned money has gone into at least part of the car - money that won't be returned if they destroy the vehicle.
    • The problem is that these things take no account for actual traffic conditions.
      that isn't how it will be used... it would be more like this:

      lawyer: "well sir, at the time you rear-ended my client, your foot was all the way down on the accellerator, the steering wheel was straight ahead, your music volumn was on 27 (a sample to the jury shows how loud it is)... how can you explain this?"

      you: "traffic conditions"

      i don't think so.

    • In the real world, nobody ever drives the speed limit under good driving conditions. Realistic freeway speeds are at least 80 in nondeveloped areas, and cars going under that speed are actually at increased risk.

      In the real world, I wave my gun around. People who walk in front of me are actually at increased risk.

      I'd like to say that cars kill more Americans each year than the entire Vietnam war. I'd also like to say that cars kill more Amercians each year than handguns do, but I can't. Drivers do it.

      People like you think that the left lane is for speeders. It's not. Tickets are for speeders because speeding is dangerous. People like you make people like me hate automobiles. People like you make me think that black boxes with certian publicly verifiable specifications should be mandatory.

  • by gmajor (514414) on Wednesday July 24, 2002 @07:43PM (#3948167) Journal
    This would be an excellent device for insurance co's to install in everyone's car. The insurance comapny could reduce their risk by identify which drivers are prone to cause the most accidents, with a greater accuracy. This would raise rates on bad drivers, which would in effect lower the rates of good drivers.

    More importantly, this might save someone's life!

    I'm sure people living in states like New York or New Jersey (where I hear the cost of car insurance is very high) would not mind anything that lowers their rates. So should I pay thousands of dollars on insurance, or let my insurance company install a box that gets my rates reduced by a few hundred, maybe even a thousand? You make the call...
    • the fear is, it would become like the black box in the cab in the movie "Fifth element"
      Oops, you sped, that will be anther 50 bucks this month.
      Forget that you where passing, or trying to get out of the way of another vehical.

      thats NOT what there doing, but mandatory instalation would be wrong.

  • I'd like to see these everywhere and think everyone should have one. Its a great idea and the time has come to mandate this.

    I won't mention that its also very tempting and easy to hook up a PDA to a small transmitter and emulation tranducers to fool these little black boxes into making them think you only drive your car down your driveway at 5mph in one direction for a few hours a day and they will never think you do anything bad.
  • by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland.yahoo@com> on Wednesday July 24, 2002 @07:48PM (#3948200) Homepage Journal
    New drivers don't know what the hell they're doing. I think in order to get your 1st liscense you should have to drive around with on of these in your car for a week, and have the evaluation of your driving habits be part of you 'driving test'.

    As a parent, I will put this in the car my children will drive when they are lod enough. Not as a way to punish them, but as a way to instill better driving habits.

    monitoring your childrem, and the government monitoring, or forcing some to monitor, individuals are two wildly different things.

    I was fortunate, my father sent me to a top notch driving school where I learned how to control a vehical in a great many situations. those class's saved my life more often the knowing what the punishment is for drunk driving.
    • Maybe instead, a lot of formal training should be required before a person is allowed to operate a motor vehicle. A lot of people never have anything more than a few hours with Mom and Dad showing them the basics, then they get thrown out on their own to figure out the rest. A more uniform education method should be required before giving someone control of a huge hunk of very dangerous machinery.
      • yes, that would be nice.

        Even with formal training teenagers still aren't in control of there emotions. I just think it would be nice to point out areas that raise red flags in a teens driving habits.

        The whole driver liscense method need to be thought out again.

        but thats another topic.
  • by InsMonkey (324276) on Wednesday July 24, 2002 @07:49PM (#3948205) Homepage
    Insurance companies could care less about where you drive, but they are definitely be interested in knowing when you are on the road and for how long. The more time you spend unparked increases your odds of having an accident. That's why they rate older drivers better, because their 25' Buicks spend most of the time parked. Driving at night significantly increases your risk of having an accident. It astronomically increases your risk of having an accident with (or as) a drunk driver. How do I know this? I used to be an underwriter for an auto insurance company...
  • Both good and bad (Score:4, Insightful)

    by fm6 (162816) on Wednesday July 24, 2002 @07:50PM (#3948209) Homepage Journal
    Well, on the one hand, I don't care for the loss of privacy. But on the other hand, there are a lot of bad drivers out there. Who don't like to be told that they drive too fast, that yellow does not mean "race the light", and that getting to work 5 minutes earlier is not worth risking your life.

    I used to commute on CA-17, which connects Silicon Valley with Santa Cruz. It's always full of people who think nothing of driving 80 mph on a windy mountain road, who think anybody who observes the speed limit is doing it just to piss them off, and who basically exhibit behavior that wouldn't be tolerated anywhere except on the highway.

    And that's what it's all about, isn't it? Communication. One reason people love their cars is that it's the one place they don't have to listen to anybody. Unfortunately, lots of people abuse this solitude. If you behaved, say, in a line at McDonalds the same way people behave on Highway 17, people would communicate a lot of anger to you. (That kind of communication while driving is known as "road rage".) Attempts have been made to communicate to the over-assertive driver. With results even -- whenever the CHP ups its presence on 17 the death rate goes way down. But the concept communicated is not "speed kills" but rather "be a good little boy when daddy's watching."

    If some people end up getting supervised because they think good behavior is just a game, they've only themselves to blame.

    • I wonder how mant of those accidents bacause people driving slower wont get the hell out of the number 1 lane?

      Incompetant behavior is what kills on the road, not speed.
    • Idiot.
      It has nothing to do with communication. And everything to do with Social Dominance. The Human Animal excercises his or her Social Dominance on the highway, because, in a car, they are empowered as they would not be if they were more equalized, standing on a sidewalk, in a crowd. In a crowd, anyone can punch you in the nose if you step on their toes or cut in line. On the road, if you have a faster more nimble car, you can get in front of people, which is the symbolic act of dominance.

      It's human nature. Attempts to control these people through heavy-handed legislation and spying devices is going to simply make them desire MORE rebellious behavior - people who lack control in one area of their lives, and crave control, typically will find another area to control to satisfy that craving.

      That's why I say, VIDEO GAMES are the answer!
  • I can see the thinking here, but since it only monitors the driving from the perspective of the car, it misses some important things ... like why they are happening. For example, most erratic or irresponsible driving amongst teens is due to them talking to their friends in the car, trying to use a cell phone, drinking, fiddling with the radio, etc.

    For example, even with this device installed I could be driving down the street (at the speed limit) talking on my cell phone, smoking a cigarette, drinking a beer through a straw, having sex with my girlfriend and tailgating the car in front of me ... and I'd still look like a perfect driver according to this device. So much for accountability :)
  • ...or charge different rates based on your driving habits. Say you drive X over the speed limit, 80 miles a day. Your rate might be US$X^2 higher than Mom, who might drive 20 miles a week at or a shade below the limit.

    Or, you frequently visit a friend just over the Mississippi border, a state that doesn't require auto insurance. Each time you do that, $bing.

    I'm sure there are plenty of other (and better) paranoid posts.

  • by Zenki (31868) on Wednesday July 24, 2002 @08:01PM (#3948273)
    I have a friend whose mother was waiting at a red light, when another vehicle backed out of a drive way and into her car pretty hard. When the police came, the driver of the other vehicle had the audacity to claim that my friend's mother actually backed into him and tried to pin the fault of the accident on her.

    Fortunately, a person who saw this happen hanged around until the police came and was able to refute the other driver's fabrication.

    If the car had a black box, the police officer could have quickly determined that my friend's mother's car was stationary up till the moment of impact regardless of whether a nice person did or did not loiter around at the crash scene.

    Granted, people might complain about details such as the car's location and a log of speeds. These issues can be solved by convincing law makers to dictate a standard set of statistics said auto boxes would record.
  • interesting (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dalroth (85450) on Wednesday July 24, 2002 @08:04PM (#3948281) Homepage Journal
    I have a webcam. I put it on the floor so I can watch my dog all day while I'm at work. I do it because it helps me keep an eye on her, it's fun, other people like it too, and it hurts nobody.

    When I have kids (God permitting), I may consider putting the webcam on the baby's crib. It would be fun, other people would like it, it would be a good way to keep an eye on the baby when nobody is with him/her for whatever reason, and it would hurt nobody.

    Once that kid starts moving around, and growing up into a person, I would *NEVER* subject my children to that kind of oversight. I can imagine it would be VERY detrimental to their social life. Children need to live lives seperate from their parents. God knows there are things I've done (and still do) that my parents don't need to know. I'm sure my kids will do the same, and I don't want know about it (as long as they aren't hurting themselves or others).

    You *NEED* some privacy in your life. I will NEVER vote for somebody who supports making something like this mandatory (and I hope my stubborn side will continue to keep this true, even as I grow old and raise kids of my own).

    Bryan
  • by iabervon (1971) on Wednesday July 24, 2002 @08:10PM (#3948317) Homepage Journal
    Having a lot of data is a good thing when reconstructing accidents. Being able to determine exactly what the driver was doing to the car will help to distinguish between skids where the driver was making it worse, skids where the driver didn't do much to help, and skids where the driver was doing the right thing and didn't recover control in time, all of which can leave about the same evidence on the road and car.

    It's not useful to know everything the driver normally does without having the road conditions in extensive detail. There's no way the box is going to be able to tell what a safe speed is, whether someone is driving erraticly in response to other cars and pedestrians. Someone driving slowly could be driving in fog, following a bicycle, in traffic, reading signs and ignoring the road, or just stoned.

    This data is only really useful in conjunction with scene evidence and other witnesses (except that you could easily tell where the kid took the car and when). You can't really use it to measure driving skill.
  • Oh great, now my wife will be a back-seat-driver in yet *more* ways when she gets the trace-map in the mail.
  • Work around (Score:2, Funny)

    by t_allardyce (48447)
    I can see it now - the safest driver in school (who is probably the geek) will get paid by everyone else to house their black boxes in his/her car, all at once, all connected up.
  • by dfenstrate (202098) <dfenstrate@@@gmail...com> on Wednesday July 24, 2002 @08:24PM (#3948397)
    And the version included a cabin sound recorder to capture the last few seconds of activity before impact.

    Usually people said, "Oh shit!" some, occasionally you'd hear snoring, but they did find a disturbing trend.

    On large 4x4's in the deep south, the last thing said was "Ya'll hold my beer and watch this."
  • by ONU CS Geek (323473) <ian@m@wilson.gmail@com> on Wednesday July 24, 2002 @08:39PM (#3948483) Homepage
    I work for a company who sells iTRAKs [databurst.com] and we customize these and can include Verizon [verizonwireless.com] or NexTel [nextel.com] phones to parents and companys that have fleet vehicles. We've sold alot of units to parents who want to know what their kids are doing when they take the cars (or their husbands, or their wifes). They can go online and see how fast the car was going; where, when, and for how long the car was stopped (down to the city block if not the address); we've got a device that can even prevent the car from being started that integrated into these devices...and you'd be suprised how many parents put these in the cars to monitor their child's activities.

    It monitors speed (how fast they were driing), seat belt status (if they had the seat belts buckled), how many people were in the car (pressure-sensitive switches in the seats), and can be configured remotely by the parents--I don't have kids myself (only 22), but it's a great 'rule enforcer' for kids who have broken their parents trust when it comes to driving, but situations (e.g., school, work, etc) prevent the parent from totally acting the 'take the keys away and lock the doors' approach for punishment.

    We have some companies who use these in their fleet vehicles or secondary finance market vehicles so they can look online and see where their cars are, prevent the cars from starting, see how many people have been riding with the driver, and send/receive text messages to/from the driver.

    We market the product as informational use only, but people are using it in a Big Brother kind of sense. That bugs me--but that's another story for another day.

  • This is really a few years old. I heard about this on dateline in 96 I think it was. These boxes were also used by some car rental companies. These rental companies then tried to give the speeders tickets and this was thrown out in court. i.e. no where in the rental agreement did these people agree to recieve a ticket if the little black box said they were speeding.
  • by alanjstr (131045) on Wednesday July 24, 2002 @08:55PM (#3948604) Homepage
    Perhaps you recall the previous Slashdot article [slashdot.org] about IEEE designing an automotive black-box standard [eet.com].

    "Eleven of the 45 companies that build passenger cars worldwide already use some kind of black-box technology, according to representatives of the IEEE. The best-known of those is General Motors Corp., which said three years ago that it includes the device, known as a sensing and diagnostics module, as part of its airbag sensing systems on most GM vehicles. The module can store such information as engine speed, vehicle speed, airbag deployment, seat belt deployment and the state of the brakes before and during an accident. "

  • by cr@ckwhore (165454) on Wednesday July 24, 2002 @09:04PM (#3948649) Homepage
    Some vehicles, especially those manufactured during the mid to late 90's already have a black box that *they* neglected to tell us about. If you're curious, its normally located beneath the driver's seat. From what I understand of the hidden black box, is that it only stores retains driving information for a few seconds, but stops recording when a serious event occurs, such as an airbag sensor being triggered. The concept is that law enforcement would then be able to use the black box data to make critical determinations in accident investigations, such as speed, braking, etc.

    I'm not 100% sure about why these weren't put into widespread use, but I believe the necessary laws have not been passed, so law enforcement is unable to use the data. Not all vehicles have been equipped.
  • by t0qer (230538) on Wednesday July 24, 2002 @09:30PM (#3948753) Homepage Journal
    a few years ago, let's say 1997-8 or so. I would have made my company go bankrupt quicker!

    *This is a tale of dot com glutony*

    I was working for a small startup with a good amount of capitol. I was averaging a trip a week down to our LA office to deal with all the windows problems. (Remote wasn't possible, the CTO thought that running HIZ software through a firewall/Router/Tunnel would make it run bad)

    Anyways aside from the problem of having a lunatic for a CTO my main issue was making sure that if the LA office needed me that week that they arranged all travel.

    Well sometimes things were forgotten, and one week they forgot to rent my car for me. I was in the burbank airport, at the budget rent a car counter...

    "Mr. Toqer we're sorry but we have no reservations for you!"

    "Awe fuck, they slipped upped again" I muttered to myself. "Ok then what do you have left??

    "We have a 1998 Convertable Jaguar XK8!" Oooh my pulse quickened, I was going to be there 3 days, sportin that ride in LA would be tits! So I called my CEO to see if it would be ok.

    "Yo, CEO, your office manager forgot to reserve my car AGAIN! All the other rental places are out of cars and all thats left is a Jaguar Xk8"

    "How much?"

    "$350@day"

    "Do it! I want to see you here in 30 minutes!"

    Man, what a rush. I had never, and I mean NEVER EVER driven a car that fast in my life. I hopped on the 405?? and headed towards Thousand Oaks. I put the pedal to the medal and I felt like I was the millenium falcon going into hyperdrive! It went from 0 to 110 in no time flat.

    Well towards the end of my trip I thought i'd go see the sunset strip by myself. I wanted to see the viper room where river phonix died (favorite actor, stand by me, ect) I made it a point to have a beer at about 9 of the joints on the strip. Fully loaded with a buzz I hopped back on the 101 to thousand oaks.

    I look back now, it's not that funny. I really could have hurt myself, or some innocent bystander. 25, young dumb and full of cum.

    Well, not really an exciting end to this post, just that I somehow managed to make it back to my hotel without wrecking or getting pulled over. Next day I handed the keys back and swore I would never drive anything over a "econo class" again. I'm not sure I can responsibilly handle that much power.

    PUNCH IT CHEWIE

    AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAEE EE IIIIIIII

    --toq
  • by Lumpy (12016) on Wednesday July 24, 2002 @10:19PM (#3948937) Homepage
    first, every teen that drives like a jerk/idiot I can show you EXACTLY where they got that habit.

    Their parents. If a child grows up watching daddy tailgate that little Kia in his big-bad yukon while trash talking, "Man this asshole is doing the speed-limit.. I wish I could just push him out of the way" or watches mommie floor it up to the barrels and arrow-board in a construction area and FORCES her way in to the merged traffic at the last second..

    This is how these teens that drive like idiots and morons get their driving habits... from the idiots and morons that had and raised them.

    And being a regular commuter..The numbers of drivers that drive like idiots and morons is increasing..

    I dont think the parents should be black-boxing the kids... it should be the state, and pull their drivers license until 25 if the box reports idiot driving.... But then I also believe that the driving test/license requirements should be quadrupled, as with giving 50% of the traffic fines to the officer as an incentive to enforce traffic laws.

    too many people are content with driving like morons, and they are breeding more morons for the roads.

  • by zerofoo (262795) on Wednesday July 24, 2002 @11:31PM (#3949229)
    We've got uber spygear in cars now...it's only a matter of time before the insurance guys and their lobbyists pressure the auto industry and congress to mandate cars that can't break the law. Imagine, cars that won't go over the speed limit (based on GPS and databases of local speed limits); cars that won't start if your seatbelt isn't buckled, or if you've blown a high blood-alcohol content. How about cars that won't allow you to turn your steering wheel unless you've signaled first???

    Hell, why don't we just outlaw the damn things right now and force people to use public transportation....freedom be damned.

    Uggh....now i'm starting to sound like Stallman.

    -ted
  • by Dascen (19119) on Thursday July 25, 2002 @12:06AM (#3949358)
    {rant}
    This little device doesnt teach them proper driving. I mean since when has coming to a complete stop at every stop sign made someone a better driver? Never, its the concious, logical thought that goes into driving. A good driver does not neccisarily follow the rules. "Obey the law but dont let it rule you." What does it matter if I come to a complete stop at every stop sign if no one is there? They need to learn how to use their brain! Not become little socially controlled automatons who learn to obey the "black box" without thinking. This program isnt making good drivers, its making nice little tax paying, go exactly the speed limit, good citizen sheep that vote the way N'Sync tells them to.
    When i was young, my mother never went through my drawers looking for pot, spying on my habits to protect me from myself. She would never resort to installing filters on our computer to make sure i wasnt looking at how to make bombs. Invading your childs privacy and forcing them to act like there is a camera over their shoulder is not the way to make sure they dont hurt themselves. What people do in front of a camera is different from what they do in private. Fear of consequences is not a substitute for morals. This "black box" is just another way for parents to invade their childrens privacy.
    This is just another step towards Hilary Clintons "It takes a Village" perfect world for raising children.
    {/rant}
  • by ColaMan (37550) on Thursday July 25, 2002 @12:41AM (#3949467) Homepage Journal

    "Hey son, I went to check on your driving last night and that damn box didn't work! Can you explain?"

    "Yeah, I accidentally poured my beer into it while driving. Sorry about that. Guess they won't replace that under warranty."

    Repeat until parent is broke. Or you have to get your own car.

Today's scientific question is: What in the world is electricity? And where does it go after it leaves the toaster? -- Dave Barry, "What is Electricity?"

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