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Automobile Black Box Sends Driver to Jail 825

Posted by michael
from the watching-us-watching-them dept.
myzor writes "This article from the Montreal Gazette reports that a driver got 18 months in jail for speeding that killed a man, after the black box in his car revealed he was going 157 km/h (98 mph) in a 50 km/h zone in downtown Montreal. The recording device, which stores data on how a car is driven in the last five seconds before a collision, showed that four seconds before impact, the driver had the gas pedal to the floor and didn't brake before impact." Reader ergo98 writes "Setting a precedent for the Canadian legal system, a Quebec man was convicted based upon the incriminating evidence found in his own car's black box." The Star also has another article looking at the issues surrounding the data recorder.
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Automobile Black Box Sends Driver to Jail

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  • by mindless4210 (768563) * on Thursday April 15, 2004 @11:59AM (#8870173) Homepage Journal
    But the groundbreaking case is also raising questions about the privacy of Canada's drivers, millions of whom have no idea that their cars may be equipped with devices that record data that might later be used in court against them.

    Well I think they all just need to check their manuals and see if there's one in their car. Either way, who cares; you shouldn't be going insanely out of control in the car anyway, and if you cause an accident, take some responisibility for it.

    ...less than a week before the third anniversary of his smashing into another vehicle at more than three times the speed limit.

    How did it take them three years to figure that out? Wasn't the data right there in their hands?
    • by TrentL (761772) on Thursday April 15, 2004 @12:03PM (#8870227) Homepage
      I just can't get angry at this. Most modern cars already have data recorders that monitor what was happening when the "Check Engine" light goes on.

      If black boxes mean I have an objective witness when some a-hole hits me at 98mph, I say bring on the black boxes.
      • by Tet (2721) *
        I just can't get angry at this. Most modern cars already have data recorders that monitor what was happening when the "Check Engine" light goes on.

        I can get angry about it when people start suggesting that black boxes shoulld be mandatory, and that's the next logical step in this case. Once they start being used in court, there will be increasing pressure to make it a legal requirement for all cars to have them. My car doesn't have a black box. Should I be forced to install one, presumably at my own expen

        • by alan_dershowitz (586542) on Thursday April 15, 2004 @12:18PM (#8870487)
          It only records 5 seconds worth of data, and stops when you hit something. I'd be more worried if it recorded 24 hours and had GPS in it. I am worried if it has no tamper protection though.
          • I'd be worried just as much about them having tamper protection, although for different reasons. Seems like things under the hood could get very DMCA-ish very quickly.
          • by Nevo (690791) on Thursday April 15, 2004 @01:50PM (#8871918)
            If you don't think that 24-hr recorders with GPS are the next step, you're not thinking.

            The current crop of black boxes really isn't all that scary. But the slippery slope we're on (as others have pointed out) is VERY scary.

            After we get 24 hour recording with GPS, the next step is... what? Remotely accessible by law enforcement? Perhaps video recording as well?

            Scary scary scary.
        • by Planesdragon (210349) <slashdot@@@castlesteelstone...us> on Thursday April 15, 2004 @12:20PM (#8870526) Homepage Journal
          That's where this is headed, and I don't like it.

          Are you familiar with the logical fallicy called "Slippery Slope?"

          The argument about whether or not these can be used against you is lost (or won, depending on your POV). The next argument will be either "should these be required on all new cars" or "should taking these be standard procedure", and after both of those, mabye, we'll argue about retrofitting old cars.

          But you're not required to install an airbag on your 1960s muscle car, so don't expect to be forced to install a black box, either.

          • Search Warrent (Score:5, Interesting)

            by thejuggler (610249) on Thursday April 15, 2004 @12:32PM (#8870716) Homepage Journal
            Every should assume their new cars can record their driving habits, but the justice system should be required to get a search warrent to get access to that black box. This means the need to show probable cause that says the need to get access to the box. And just being in an accident is not probable cause. They should need to show evidence that you were in fact in violation of some law and that the black box could provide the proof of that violation.

            I am not a lawyer, I just watch people that pretend to be lawyers on TV.
            • Re:Search Warrant (Score:3, Insightful)

              by tassii (615268)
              The government does not need a warrant to inspect a vehicle after a crash. The NTSB can inspect any vehicle at any time for safety issues. Inspecting a black box for mechanical failures would just be a matter of course.

              And if the vehicle is involved in an accident, then anything that has to do with that accident is under investigation.. including the vehicle involved.

              However, if they go into the trunk and find a bale of pot, they have to have a reason to have been in the trunk. But they certainly d
            • Re:Search Warrent (Score:3, Informative)

              by xdroop (4039)

              They should need to show evidence that you were in fact in violation of some law and that the black box could provide the proof of that violation.

              Open-and-shut in this case, I'm afraid... the defendant claimed he was going just a little over the 50 Km/h limit, but there was excessive damage to both cars. Also, the defendant's spedometer was frozen by the crash at 125Km/h (the video was on the CBC last night). Put that all together, and you have probable cause that he was excessively breaking the spee

            • Re:Search Warrent (Score:5, Informative)

              by nacturation (646836) <<moc.liamg> <ta> <noitarutcan>> on Thursday April 15, 2004 @03:39PM (#8873500) Journal
              Every should assume their new cars can record their driving habits, but the justice system should be required to get a search warrent to get access to that black box. This means the need to show probable cause that says the need to get access to the box. And just being in an accident is not probable cause. They should need to show evidence that you were in fact in violation of some law and that the black box could provide the proof of that violation.

              I'm not sure if it's this specific case (probably is) but the driver essentially got an insurance claim out of the accident. Naturally, going that fast the car was a total write-off. Now in exchange for the insurance money, the posession of the car was turned over to the insurance company. Because the vehicle is now the property of the insurance company, no warrants are needed and they can legally search over every square millimeter to find any evidence they want.

              Had the driver refused an insurance payout and claimed that the car, or what was left of it, was his property and he would not be releasing it nor accepting any insurance money, likely this would never have resulted in a conviction (barring an application to the courts for a warrant to search his car for the evidence).
          • Law Isn't Philosophy (Score:5, Interesting)

            by cribcage (205308) on Thursday April 15, 2004 @12:39PM (#8870851) Homepage Journal

            I don't have any objection to these boxes. I'm a bit of a privacy nut, but I'm also a law-abiding citizen. If we're talking about legislation that begins issuing citations to speeders every time their black box is scanned during an oil change, then I'll certainly join the naysayers. But if it's being used exactly like fingerprints and DNA, to secure convictions for violent criminals, then I'll applaud the technological development. (Yes, I think vehicular manslaughter resulting from driving double the posted speed limit in a metropolitan area constitutes a violent offense.)

            Having said that: I don't know what they told you in Philosophy 101, but "slippery slope" isn't a logical fallacy in a courtroom. It's a valid argument, and oftentimes a compelling one.

            crib

            • by fmaxwell (249001) on Thursday April 15, 2004 @02:27PM (#8872484) Homepage Journal
              I don't have any objection to these boxes. I'm a bit of a privacy nut, but I'm also a law-abiding citizen.

              No you are not. You often exceed the posted limit by a few miles per hour. You occasionally go through a stop sign or make a right turn on red without coming to a full and complete stop. Every now and then, you change lanes or make turns without signalling (which, in the insane state of Virginia is a Class 1 Misdemeanor for which you can get up to a year in jail, $2500 fine, and a six month license suspension).

              If we're talking about legislation that begins issuing citations to speeders every time their black box is scanned during an oil change, then I'll certainly join the naysayers.

              Why? I thought that you were a law-abiding citizen. Or did you mean that you obey the laws which you consider to be reasonable? ;-)

              Having said that: I don't know what they told you in Philosophy 101, but "slippery slope" isn't a logical fallacy in a courtroom. It's a valid argument, and oftentimes a compelling one.

              There are actually two kinds of slippery slope arguments. The fallacious one is where you say that "event X has happened, therefore event Y will inevitably happen." An example of this is "if the government makes us register our guns, they will come to take the guns away." The other kind of slippery slope argument is valid. That's where one argues against setting a legal precedent for fear of how it could be used.
              • by dhamsaic (410174) *

                Why? I thought that you were a law-abiding citizen. Or did you mean that you obey the laws which you consider to be reasonable? ;-)

                If they started requiring tracking chips in all newborn African American babies, and I'm not an African American baby, then why should I care? Standing against a law doesn't mean that you intend to or regularly do violate said law, only that you disagree with it. For example, I am not sold on the benefits of the HOV system. (You're in VA? You ever take 66 East in the morning?

          • by David Hume (200499) on Thursday April 15, 2004 @01:42PM (#8871820) Homepage

            That's where this is headed, and I don't like it.


            Are you familiar with the logical fallicy called "Slippery Slope?"


            Slippery slope arguments are not always (if, technically, ever) logical fallicies. UCLA Law professor Eugene Volokh recently published a great law review article on the subject: The Mechanisms of the Slippery Slope, 116 Harvard Law Review 1026 (2003) [ucla.edu]. (See also PDF Version.) [ucla.edu]

        • by Kombat (93720) <kombat@kombat.org> on Thursday April 15, 2004 @12:21PM (#8870532) Homepage
          Nor do I like the assumption that the government has the right to know what I'm doing and how I'm driving

          Curious comment, considering the government already has this "right," by virtue of the fact that your driving license is a privilege, and not a right. Ergo, you posess the license at their discretion.

          As for them monitoring your driving, are you not aware of the hundreds of thousands of speed traps, and automated red-light/photoradar camera installations that populate the continent? They do have a right to know how you're driving, and they are exercising that right vigorously, daily.

          As for calibration errors, I think it's a non-issue. If you're involved in a collision in which your bumper is crushed, but the rest of the car is intact, and the black box claims you were impacted the tree at 182 MPH, I'm pretty sure common-sense would prevail and the data would be discarded.
          • Not so fast, bub (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Safety Cap (253500)

            ~ your driving license is a privilege, and not a right.

            Let's take a look at Black's law dictionary [amazon.com]:

            PRIVILEGE: "A peculiar right, advantage, exemption, power, franchise, or immunity held by a person or class, not generally possessed by others."

            RIGHT: "Rights are defined generally as 'powers of free action.' And the primal rights pertaining to men are enjoyed by human beings purely as such, being grounded in personality, and existing antecedently to their recognition by positive law."

            According t

            • Re:Not so fast, bub (Score:5, Informative)

              by LostCluster (625375) * on Thursday April 15, 2004 @12:46PM (#8870994)
              As far as I have been able to determine, there have been no USSC cases that, by abridging the right to drive, relegate it to "priviledge" status.

              How about the fact that no appeal of somebody who has lost their privledge to hold a driver's license has ever made it to the USSC?
            • Re:Not so fast, bub (Score:5, Interesting)

              by ibsteveog (442616) on Thursday April 15, 2004 @12:49PM (#8871046) Journal
              the right to travel freely is enjoyed by all citizens. As the primary purpose of driving is to travel from one point to another, it must therefore be a right.

              'Not so fast, bub...'

              This is like saying that I have a right to eat, and since the primary purpose of throwing dynamite in a lake is so that I have something to eat, it must be my right...

              Or... I have the right to be happy.. and the primary purpose of me shooting you is to make me happy, therefore shooting you must be my right. =)

              In any case, just because you have a right to do something, and there is A method of accomplishing that something, doesn't mean that the METHOD is your right. There may be lots of other methods, and your failure to properly execute a method is valid grounds for making you use a different method (as is the case here with driving).

            • by _Lint_ (30522) on Thursday April 15, 2004 @12:51PM (#8871065)
              While the right to travel freely is a right, specific methods of travel are privileges. Specifically, the right to drive a car on a public road is a privilege.

              And it hasn't made it to the USSC because it's pretty damn self-evident. People are denied driver's liscences all the time, and liscences being revoked by the DMV or the courts is a pretty common occurance.

              Denying someone the ability to drive themselves on a public road does not deny them the ability to travel.
            • Try driving... (Score:5, Insightful)

              by cnelzie (451984) on Thursday April 15, 2004 @12:51PM (#8871068) Homepage
              ...with a suspended or otherwise revoked Driver's License or Operator's Permit (It is named either one depending upon the state you reside in.)

              Once you are driving without that permit or license, make certain you get pulled over and make certain that you tell the police officer right away that you are driving illegally. See how long you stay out of jail for.

              You are right, the government cannot take away your fundamental right to travel freely across this nation. You can walk, you can pedal yourself around with a bicycle, heck you can even drag yourself on your belly if you so desire.

              You have no inherent right to drive an automobile, it is written nowhere that at birth you have the fundamental right to drive.

              Nobody here needs to put up a single US Supreme Court decision. That is covered by the State Law and there is no single Lawyer that I am aware of that would ever claim and attempt to take to the Supreme Court your 'Fundamental Right' to drive if you have a Suspended License or revoked Operator's Permit.

              You want proof? Walk, bike or drive yourself down to your local circuit court and look at the day's docket. You will see more then a few people with reckless driving cases up before the court.
            • by rjh (40933) <rjh@sixdemonbag.org> on Thursday April 15, 2004 @12:55PM (#8871154)
              As far as I have been able to determine, there have been no USSC cases that, by abridging the right to drive, relegate it to "priviledge" status.
              Nor will you find SCOTUS cases declaring driving to be a privilege as opposed to a right. It has nothing to do with driving being a "right", though: it has to do with the fact that driving regulations are a State matter and are handled in State courts, and to the extent these matters have been brought in Federal courts, they've been dismissed on summary judgment.

              The Constitution guarantees all free citizens (i.e., those who have not had their freedoms curtailed by legal process--e.g., convicted felons) the right to travel. It does not guarantee you the right to travel on anything other than your own two legs. Cities can regulate whether they allow horses on their roads, since your right to travel freely on a horse has to be weighed against the right of your fellow citizens not to have horseshit littering the sidewalk. The government can regulate whether you're allowed to fly a 747, because your right to travel freely by a plane you're piloting has to be weighed against the right of your fellow citizens not to have a Boeing crash in their back yard.

              The right to travel is strong and sacrosanct in the United States. Travel by any method you choose is not, and has never been, a right.

              Check Westlaw for caselaw. There's a staggering lot of it. In pretty much every single Federal district in the United States, someone's had the bright idea of contesting their license suspension by walking into a Federal court and claiming their Constitutional right to travel is being abridged. These things get dismissed on summary judgment, since the facts are not in dispute and the law is unambiguously clear.
          • by medscaper (238068) on Thursday April 15, 2004 @12:40PM (#8870858) Homepage
            If you're involved in a collision in which your bumper is crushed, but the rest of the car is intact, and the black box claims you were impacted the tree at 182 MPH

            When I was a kid, and you hit a tree at 182 MPH, you knew it, by God.

          • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 15, 2004 @12:54PM (#8871136)
            As for calibration errors, I think it's a non-issue. If you're involved in a collision in which your bumper is crushed, but the rest of the car is intact, and the black box claims you were impacted the tree at 182 MPH, I'm pretty sure common-sense would prevail and the data would be discarded.

            Your example is completely loaded. A more likely example is one where there is an accident without clear fault and the black box records one car at 56 (in a 55) and the other at 54 (in a 55). The calibration of one box by 1 MPH could mean the difference between fault and no-fault for some people. Additionally, some speedometers are inaccurate too, so if the black box is measuring speed from something like a speedometer this might still be an issue. This is especially true on older cars where the cars' settings aren't as tight as they were when it left the factory.

            Your circular reasoning in regards to the government's supposed right to monitor our driving habits is blatant. Just because the government has the ability to monitor us, and just because it does monitor us, does not mean the government has the right to monitor us!

            The government is constantly testing its powers and hopefully some court cases will come up challenging the government's most recent driver monitoring techniques.

            Furthermore, speed traps are not a very good example of this kind of monitoring because they are done by humans for public safety. Contrast that with the machine operated red light cameras and black boxes, and I think you'll see there is a clear difference. The ethical distinction here is, in my mind, the difference between humans being held responsible by machines v. humans being held responsible by other humans. IMHO a cop sitting at a stop light giving red light tickets is justified while privately owned and operated red light cameras giving out tickets is not.

            • by fucksl4shd0t (630000) on Thursday April 15, 2004 @03:16PM (#8873200) Homepage Journal

              Just because the government has the ability to monitor us, and just because it does monitor us, does not mean the government has the right to monitor us! (emphasis removed due to laziness, refer to the original post if you want to know where it was)

              Yes and no. The government has a responsibility to enforce certain laws enacted by legislation. Specifically, the cops have this responsibility. Setting up a speed trap is perfectly legal. Setting up a speed trap next to my 10 acre parcel is perfectly legal. Me posting a sign on my land indicating this speed trap is also perfectly legal. ;)

              The cameras are, in fact, legal as well, and have been tested in court already. The cameras were determined to be legal, but taking a picture of the man and his not-wife lover and including it in the ticket, thus causing a divorce that was already inevitable (apparently), is not legal because it's a violation of privacy. What's the difference between a speeding car getting caught by a speed trap with a real cop in it and a camera? (obviously, the difference is knowing who is in the car and actually holding them responsible, but it's been upheld in court so far)

          • by sootman (158191) on Thursday April 15, 2004 @01:05PM (#8871295) Homepage Journal
            Something else the tinfoil-hat-crowd keeps forgetting is that driving is, almost by definition, done *in public*. *Anyone* has the right to observe you by whatever means they wish. This is *not* "two-consenting-adults-in-their-own-bedroom" stuff we're talking about here.
          • by CrayzyJ (222675)
            "As for calibration errors, I think it's a non-issue. If you're involved in a collision in which your bumper is crushed, but the rest of the car is intact, and the black box claims you were impacted the tree at 182 MPH, I'm pretty sure common-sense would prevail and the data would be discarded."

            This is an extreme example. What about your are involved in a collision (no such thing as an accident), and the box says you were going 5 MPH over the posted limit due to a calibration error. You get whatever punish
        • by Saeed al-Sahaf (665390) on Thursday April 15, 2004 @12:28PM (#8870637) Homepage
          I can get angry about it when people start suggesting that black boxes shoulld be mandatory, and that's the next logical step in this case.

          Yeh, who knows! Today they want to use these things to pop people who run down and kill other people, tomorrow they'll want to plant the damn things IN OUR HEADS!

        • by Pig Hogger (10379) <pig@hogger.gmail@com> on Thursday April 15, 2004 @12:37PM (#8870801) Homepage Journal
          I can get angry about it when people start suggesting that black boxes shoulld be mandatory, and that's the next logical step in this case.
          Of course they should be. No one blinks at the mention of having event recorders installed on trains and planes; why should'nt they be installed on automobiles?

          Driving a car is not a right, but a privilege exerced in public view. Why should you then have any expectation of privacy whilst driving a car? To hide the fact that you are driving in a way that endangers public safety?

          You can be pulled over anytime by a cop whenever he sees you driving like a dumbfuck, so what's the difference if it is a blackbox that nails you? Because you can't get away with it anymore?

          What DO YOU have so special as to be able to break the law and endanger other people???

          Besides, blackboxes are coming anyways. Some years back, in a computer project management class, we had to pick a law-enforcement theme computer project (the teacher has a day job with the $FEDERAL_POLICE_AGENCY).

          Bad driving being my major pet peeve, I naturally proposed a computerized driving monitor that would automatically ticket drivers whenever they break traffic laws, thus freeing police for more useful work such as cracking down on criminal spammers.

          Well, lo and behold, when he saw the proposal, he curtly refused it with "this is coming anyways"...

          So, it's only a matter of time before Big Brother will be your co-pilot...

        • Grandfather clause (Score:3, Insightful)

          by TrentL (761772)
          Presumably some kind of Grandfather clause could be written for older vehicles.

          As for calibration, yes, there are issues there. But now we are talking about fraud. The government already knows how many miles you've driven your car. There are severe penalities for altering odometer readings. I don't see how altering a black box would be much different.
      • by DrFrob (568991) on Thursday April 15, 2004 @12:20PM (#8870524)
        I can get angry at this:

        He is also barred from driving for the next three years.

        WTF? He's had two accidents within the last three years due to wreckless driving, one of which kills someone, and they're only going to take away his license for three years!

        Once you kill someone due to wreckless driving you should loose your driving privilages permanently. Assholes like this and the courts that fail to appropriately punish them are the reason why my insurance bills are so rediculous.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 15, 2004 @12:07PM (#8870298)
      18 months in jail for KILLING someone. (And don't even bother arguing that he is somehow indemnified by the fact that he was speeding. That's bollocks.)

      Thank you for posting this, eds, right after we heard about someone getting 2/3 of that time for UNAUTHORISED RECORDING OF A MOVIE.

      Why bother burning a copy of a "My Life and Times with the Thrill Kill Kult" album, when you can apparently live it for yourself at only marginally greater cost.
      • by Ravensfire (209905) on Thursday April 15, 2004 @12:22PM (#8870549) Homepage
        Blah, blah, blah.

        Okay, time for some education. This person was SENTENCED to jail for 18 months. For killing someone - that's light to me. Especially since they couldn't be bothered to hit the brakes.

        The kid filming the movie was ARRESTED. The statute he's charged under allows for jail time up to 1 year, if convicted, and/or up to a $2,500 fine.

        See those key words - up to. Yeah, he might, MIGHT get that for the first offense. Unlikely. Probably a fine and probation. Get busted a couple of times, that's when more severe penalties get applied.

        To tie this back to this discussion, the driver was probably facing up to a couple of years. His lawyer considers this a "very, very severe" sentence. Yeah - 18 months for killing a kid while travelling 3 times the speed limit and not hitting the brakes and having the car floored is light.

        -- Ravensfire
      • by Chiasmus_ (171285) <ayatollah_hyperb ... o.com minus poet> on Thursday April 15, 2004 @01:03PM (#8871275) Journal
        18 months in jail for KILLING someone.

        The law recognizes, as I think it should, a distinction between KILLING someone, and doing something negligent that causes someone else to die.

        In fact, there are at least four criminal categories of homicide:

        First degree murder: A person forms a specific intent to kill someone, plans the killing, and kills the victim or has them killed. (e.g. the Thrill Kill Kult)

        Second degree murder: A person who did not previously have a specific intent to kill someone flies into a rage and forms the intent to kill the victim at almost exactly the same time he does the killing.

        Voluntary manslaughter: A voluntary manslaughter is similar to a second degree murder, but it can be shown that the victim adequately provoked the killer into killing him (e.g., "imperfect self defense" and arguably, the last scene in the movie Se7en).

        Involuntary manslaughter: A person does not form the specific intent to kill, but does something either criminal or criminally negligent which leads to someone else's death.

        Now, there are special laws which allow (generally upward) adjustments so that someone who would ordinarily fall into one category is placed in another. For example, a drunk driver who kills someone can often be convicted of a murder.

        However, a sober speeder cannot; our courts almost universally recognize that as an involuntary manslaughter.

        Tangent: back in the days that I worked variable shifts, I'd often be driving home on about two hours of sleep in three days, weaving all over the highway, thinking that I could drive at least twice as well if I were well-rested but a little bit drunk. But special interest pressures have made drunk driving a felony, and extremely fatigued driving, which is equally dangerous, barely a crime at all.
    • Speaking from the US point-of-view, the issue that I struggle with is whether black-box info (BBI ?) should fall under the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. I lean towards treating the BBI as the car-owner's, to be used/disclosed at his sole discretion. I recognize that this is probably inconsistent with how other "evidence" is treated, but it would make me more comfortable with the presence of the black boxes as the information wouldn't necessarily "come back to haunt me" in the form of cri
      • I lean towards treating the BBI as the car-owner's, to be used/disclosed at his sole discretion. I recognize that this is probably inconsistent with how other "evidence" is treated, but it would make me more comfortable with the presence of the black boxes as the information wouldn't necessarily "come back to haunt me" in the form of criminal/civil jeopardy, as justification for higher insurance rates, etc.

        However, with a warrant the police are free to inspect items owned by a suspect, even if they may b

  • by pr0c (604875) * on Thursday April 15, 2004 @12:00PM (#8870186)
    I read once somewhere that these 'blackboxes' may be vital in making your airbag and other critical operations work. Removing them based off of privacy concerns (AKA fear of getting caught) may be foolish. I know removal may be suggested multiple times.
    • by frinkster (149158) on Thursday April 15, 2004 @12:32PM (#8870707)
      The black boxes were originally intented to be used to determine if the airbags and other safety systems functioned properly in the crash. GM (rightly) does not want to be sued by someone claiming that their spouse or child or whatever died because the safety systems did not work as intended. The real world can not be completely modelled in the lab, thus data from real-world crashes is needed to perfect the safety systems.

      Of course that data needs to be there when GM buys the crashed car from the junkyard, so GM built a black box that records the last 5 seconds before an airbag deployment.

      There is no conspiracy. GM wants to make sure their safety systems work.
  • by non-registered (639880) on Thursday April 15, 2004 @12:02PM (#8870216) Homepage
    This is disturbing. Maybe the box in my car is broken and 'stuck at 98'.
    • Or worse! (Score:5, Funny)

      by mekkab (133181) * on Thursday April 15, 2004 @12:12PM (#8870391) Homepage Journal
      My black boxes is stuck at "doesn't signal while changing lanes" and "sings along to the Backstreet boys at top volume!"

      They day I get pulled over and ticketed because my box says I'm "stuck at nerd" is the day that the terrorists win.
    • by LostCluster (625375) * on Thursday April 15, 2004 @12:13PM (#8870407)
      The black box speed can be compared against the accident damage. Based on where the cars land at the end, the math can be done to get back to the original speeds. The black box would just be a checksum at that point.

      Really, this thing is better at ruling out theories that didn't happen than proving ones that did. This guy was caught dead to rights already, the black box just supported a case that was already made.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 15, 2004 @12:16PM (#8870460)
      The man was not found guilty based solely on the black box's evidence. The black box's data was just one part of the evidence that led to the man's conviction. If the black box showed one thing and all other evidence contradicted it, then the black box data would be suspect and taken less seriously, or dismissed outright.
  • by kognate (322256) on Thursday April 15, 2004 @12:02PM (#8870219)
    They forget to mention that if you are accused of breaking the law you can use the black-box to prove you weren't.

    It's just an instrument measuring the state of the car. People don't call Odometers a "privacy issue".
    • by nharmon (97591) on Thursday April 15, 2004 @12:28PM (#8870647) Homepage
      Having a black box in a car is not a privacy issue per se. However, abusive use of the data it stores may be.

      We have a terrible track record in the United States (although this occured in Canada, it could have just as easily happened here) when it comes to punching holes in privacy rights.

      In Michigan, we have what is called a "implied consent law". What this means is that if you are stopped by a police officer on a public road, he can ask you to take a breath test for alcohol without even reasonabl suspicion. If you refuse, your driver's license is automatically suspended.

      What I see happening is a similiar "implied consent" law apply to black boxes. Any time you are stopped, the police officer will not need any probable cause to search the records in your black box...this is because you "implied consent" by driving on the public roads.

      So you see, this could very much become a privacy issue.
      • I am a pretty big privacy nut, and I *still* don't think that the last five seconds of your driving represent a really big issue in privacy.

        I think that a lot of people on Slashdot oppose anti-speeding measures because they speed and want to continue to do so. Let's even assume that you are one of these people. If you're going 100MPH and you have to slow down safely, find a spot to pull over, and actually do so, even if the recorder stops when the car is stopped, there's going to be nothing left on the r
  • Wow. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by BiggerIsBetter (682164) on Thursday April 15, 2004 @12:03PM (#8870231)
    Floored accelerator while doing 157 km/h through an intersection in a 50 zone, and not braking before collecting another car. Maybe big brother got it right for once?
    • Re:Wow. (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Politburo (640618)
      Maybe big brother got it right for once?

      And that's why all of the sudden the discussion about automotive black boxes has gone from "How dare you?" to "This guy should lose his licence for life". "Big Brother" type technology is never feared when it is used to harrass or penalize law-breaking individuals. Most of us don't think that the FBI using Echelon or other data sifting systems to find terrorists is a bad thing. However, when those systems begin to be used outside of the original domain, the problem
  • Excellent (Score:5, Insightful)

    by USAPatriot (730422) on Thursday April 15, 2004 @12:03PM (#8870234) Homepage
    Isn't this what slashdot should be cheering for, the use of technology that saves lives? What kind of privacy do you expect when you're in a 3000 lb vehicle going 90+ mph on a public road?

    These black boxes have far more benefits that outweigh any concerns about privacy. The use of them can serve as neutral observers to determine what really happened in an accident, and can help automobile manufacturers improve safety with the use of this data.

    So no, the black box didn't send him to jail. Killing a guy with his car did.

    • by nuggz (69912) on Thursday April 15, 2004 @12:13PM (#8870406) Homepage
      Other important factors are
      He lied, he said he was going only slightly over the speed limit.
      There was a huge amount of damage, that was not representative of his claimed speed.
      There were no skid marks (Although ABS may limit them)

      The investigators got a court order to look at the black box. They already had evidence that he was going faster then he claimed. And that he didn't try to prevent or reduce the accident.

      The only thing the black box did was confirm evidence they already had, and make it more precise (exact speed, and that he didn't hit the brakes.)
    • by strike2867 (658030) on Thursday April 15, 2004 @12:20PM (#8870515)
      I blame the guy that got killed. He went outside of his bomb shelter knowing full well that there could be someone out there that could kill him. The government should have at least put a bubble around him. It is the governments responsibility to keep us from getting injured. I will praise any Senator that proposes we outlaw knifes, forks, chopsticks. Who know what we can do to ourselves with them.
  • Wrong (Score:5, Insightful)

    by blinder (153117) <blinder DOT dave AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday April 15, 2004 @12:04PM (#8870242) Homepage Journal
    Automobile Black Box Sends Driver to Jail

    Um, no. Actually driving like a criminal, and using one's car as a weapon is what sent this scum bag to jail. The "black box" just helped make sure this freak is off the streets.

  • Only 18 months? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by alptraum (239135) on Thursday April 15, 2004 @12:04PM (#8870250)
    He only got 18 months for killing a man? For the speed he was going I would really expect a longer sentance.
    • Re:Only 18 months? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Grab (126025) on Thursday April 15, 2004 @12:15PM (#8870434) Homepage
      Dead right, man.

      His lawyer is apparently whining "we'll have to appeal this very, very harsh sentence". Harsh?! 18 month sentence (and let's be honest, that only really amounts to 12 months inside) for killing someone?! Shit, the kid should be thanking his lucky stars *I* wasn't handing down that sentence...

      Hitting someone when you're doing 157km/h in a built-up area is not an accident - it's like standing on a crowded subway, pulling out a pistol, closing your eyes and pulling the trigger. Maybe you won't hit anyone, but that's only by luck. That speed on the freeway, fair enough if you can handle it. But in a built-up area, no way.

      Grab.
  • by Hieronymus Howard (215725) * on Thursday April 15, 2004 @12:07PM (#8870311)
    Another dupe [slashdot.org]. Yawn. This story was originally posted last October when he was convicted.
  • by bdigit (132070) on Thursday April 15, 2004 @12:08PM (#8870322)
    The lesson is clear: stay out of movie theaters^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H.. cars and you won't get arrested.
  • by strider3700 (109874) on Thursday April 15, 2004 @12:11PM (#8870360)
    Now my car is probably a little older then anything that contains these, it's a 91, but I'm wondering if you could legally remove this if you wanted to?

    I'm in the process of stripping my car down to it's bare essentials for autoX use however it needs to be street legal to get to the track.

    I know that the aftermarket ECU I've installed is illegal because it can be tuned by the user and therefore fails the local smog rules. However when I had the car tested the inspectors didn't find the ECU and the results still came out clean enough so I don't care.

    In my mind the most likely place to have this tracking hardware is in the ECU. It already knows all of the information he was convicted on. The new ECU has the capability of logging the same info, but I can turn it on or off.

    I'd hate for something stupid like that to be the thing that gets my car pulled off the road.

  • by RobertB-DC (622190) * on Thursday April 15, 2004 @12:11PM (#8870367) Homepage Journal
    I have to take off my tinfoil hat for this one. While where I go and how fast I got there aren't anyone's business under normal circumstances, five seconds of data gathered right before I crash are fair game.

    However, there are some issues to be careful about:

    * Five seconds is probably not long enough to know what really happened. I could have mashed the brake to the floor at t-10s, then hit the gas to avoid being T-Bone'd at t-6s... in that case, it looks like I was rushing headlong into the wreck.

    * But how long is enough? 30 seconds? Five minutes? A day or two? Pick a silly extreme, and someone is likely to attempt to legislate it.

    * Who has read access to the data? It's my data, so I should be able to plug the car into my USB port and see it for myself (as should my attorney).

    * Who has write access? Obviously, the car's sensors and nobody else. But are there safeguards (digital signature?) to ensure against tampering? And what if a hacker replaces the car's CPU?

    * How about "erase"? IIRC, airline black boxes have a button that the pilot can hit on his way out of the cockpit to erase the voice recorder after a successful landing (defined: one you walk away from). Is this a Good Thing, or Considered Harmful?

    * Is it fair if my car has the feature, but the other guy's doesn't? You can tell that I was speeding, but what if he was speeding more? Remember the "Malcolm in the Middle" episode, where the camera "saw" Mom pull out in front of someone, but another camera showed that the other car made a U-Turn right in front of her?

    Lots of issues to be resolved. But I'll get one, if I can, *if* there's an insurance discount.
    • Who has read access to the data? It's my data, so I should be able to plug the car into my USB port and see it for myself (as should my attorney).

      s/USB/ODB\ II

      try autoxray [autoxray.com]

      but that might not be enough, in which case you'll have to buy a $3k scan tool. Nothing is stopping you from doing this now. Just because your car doesn't have a USB interface doesn't mean you can't get to it.
    • How about "erase"? IIRC, airline black boxes have a button that the pilot can hit on his way out of the cockpit to erase the voice recorder after a successful landing...

      Incorrect. You may be thinking of something else. There is a circuit-breaker than can be pulled to stop the recorders. The recorders are endless-loop, erasing themselves as they go. Wire or tape recorders typically store 30 minutes of data/voice. Digital recorders can store more, but erase on the same principle (FIFO).

      In addition to

  • as it stands (Score:3, Interesting)

    by unformed (225214) on Thursday April 15, 2004 @12:11PM (#8870370)
    If it's simply saving the previous five seconds before impact, then what's the problem? This will be an objective and relatively perfect witness.

    Now if they start monitoring everything (as in every speed you go, along with GPS to know what road you were) that's a completely different issue, and should raise some privacy concerns.

    This, OTOH, should make the roads safer, as well as reduce insurance rates.
  • by register_ax (695577) on Thursday April 15, 2004 @12:13PM (#8870400) Journal
    The Montreal motorist betrayed by his car's black box has been sent to jail for dangerous driving causing death.

    I read that as:

    The Montreal motorist betrayed by the truth has been sent to a facility which offers the possibility of those lacking responsibility to rethink their stance on this moral predicament.

    If the tree falls and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? For those to dense ... if information exists that is not made aware, does it hold any importance?

    Ah yes, it then becomes a matter to how much truth we are entitled to maintain to ourselves. Or in another word, privacy. Corruption will remain all the while truth is suppressed. I don't like this fact, but I find it doubtful we'll get there because we are brothers (sisters -- does it even matter?)

    (Note I just got done watching Dogma ;)

  • What a lunatic (Score:3, Interesting)

    by olau (314197) on Thursday April 15, 2004 @12:13PM (#8870411) Homepage
    Obviously, this guy needs some kind of treatment by professionals. It is a good thing the black box could help nail him.

    But I really fail to see how this is interesting on Slashdot. This is obviously not a privacy issue. The black box records information about the last five seconds before a collision. That's hardly a privacy concern.
  • Privacy issue? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Jin Wicked (317953) on Thursday April 15, 2004 @12:13PM (#8870415) Homepage Journal

    I concur with the other posters that there's not a privacy issue here, when you're on a public road driving a vehicle that not only affects you but the roads you drive on and everyone you encounter during that drive, the needs of public safety outweigh any "privacy" issues with the car recording speed or other engine statistics. It's not like the car is sitting there with a notebook writing down where you're going, either.

    This guy's own stupidity got him in trouble, I for one hope that he gets his license revoked for life. They have good public transport up there. Let him take the bus.

  • by HangingChad (677530) on Thursday April 15, 2004 @12:17PM (#8870473) Homepage
    Is people will learn to drive around another 20 or 30 seconds before calling 911.
  • by Cecil (37810) on Thursday April 15, 2004 @12:21PM (#8870539) Homepage
    I have no problems with the way this happened. I still have some faith in the legal process in Canada. The prosecutor petitioned the judge for the right to use the black-box as evidence, and won that right only after they had presented severe inconsistencies in testimony and evidence.

    He was supposedly going just over the speed limit, but the excessive damage to the cars didn't support this. There were no skidmarks to suggest that he had tried to stop. He said the other car was running a red light. There were just a lot of things that didn't add up.

    So, rather than just making a guess at who was right and who was lying, they brought in more evidence to make sure. That makes me feel more confident, not less. I'd rather have justice properly served, than not introduce that evidence for some silly reasons.

    I'm a huge privacy advocate, but I don't oppose things like properly-granted search warrants, nor do I oppose this. If it gets abused in the future, then something should be done to prevent that abuse. But in this case, everything was done correctly, and what do you know, the system works.
  • by heyitsme (472683) on Thursday April 15, 2004 @12:22PM (#8870548) Homepage
    Well, I have some karma to burn, so here we go.

    157 km/h, in downtown Montreal.... what the fuck are you thinking?

    This guy deserves it. How is this any different from an outside CCTV camera catching the whole incident? This makes everyone accountable.

    The recording device, which stores data on how a car is driven in the last five seconds before a collision, showed that four seconds before impact, the driver had the gas pedal to the floor and didn't brake before impact.

    +1 for perfectly reasonable uses of monitoring technology. Note how (a) it only recorded because there WAS an accident (post facto) and (b) the evidence was used only because someone was killed.

    Let the leadfoot rot.
  • by scorp1us (235526) on Thursday April 15, 2004 @12:23PM (#8870569) Journal
    I hold the notion that privacy does not exist when you are on a motor way. It is only a matter of witnesses vs black box. The black box is more stustworthy. If you disagree and think that this data should not be availible, then I ask you how many other ways do you think the cops have to estimate his speed? From the damage to the car, pedestrian, and eye witnesses (if any) they can estimate his speed at impact. Its simple forensics. The black box just makes it more certain.

    How acturate are they? Very. There are two ways to control the fuel injector pulse in cars. ine is Mass Air Flow (MAF) and the ither is speed-density. Either way, the computer is accurate enought to mix fuel to milliseconds on the injector pulse. (And we know milliseconds are forever to a MHZ computer)

    The if MAF, the fuel is calcualted by the reading from the MAF sensor which gives the amount of air flow into the engine (take sint oaccount temperature of air too). Add 1/14.7 of that, and you have proper mixture. The other way is speed density. You measure the temperature of the air, the volume (displacement) of the engine, and the RPM, and it knows how much fuel to use as well.

    Now that engine is connected to a transmision of fixed ratios. Here, we need to make an assumption, 1) the clutch is not in or failing (slipping) and 2) his wheels aren;t spinning against the pavement. Then from the RPM alone (which we know is tracked) you can accurately calculate the speed.

    I think these boxes are a good thing. They will expose negligence and fraud. Also I think they have a tendancy to coroberate your story in an accident and actually come to your defense - that you actively tried to aviod it. All this helps place the blame on the correct person so justice can be served fairly.

    I myself have been in 2 accidents where my guilt was questionable, had these been availible I am sure I would not have been at fault.

    If you're using privacy to hide the truth, then there's something wrong with what you are doing, and you know that.
  • by dfinney (210092) on Thursday April 15, 2004 @12:23PM (#8870571)
    This is an emotionally charged case where the individual was clearly at fault. As a test case, is this sufficiently compelling to allow it to stand as a precedent? After all, if you have nothing to hide, why should you be concerned that your driving behavior is being monitored?

    One might even extend this surveillance to gather even more data. Perhaps there should be continual video surveillance of the inside of your car to monitor for unsafe behavior. Even better, perhaps the police should even be allowed to search your vehicle anytime they wish to ensure that you are not carrying any stolen goods or contraband. If you have nothing to hide, why should you care?

    Take it a step further. Perhaps there should be continual video surveillance of the inside of your home to ensure your safety, monitor for unsafe behavior and check for stolen goods.

    It is exactly this attitude on the part of the British that stimulated the Revolutionary War. There are many good reasons to allow the redcoats to trample on an individual's private life, much like the example in the article. But are these good enough reasons to turn loose of these rights?
  • by univeralifepadre (582313) on Thursday April 15, 2004 @12:24PM (#8870583) Homepage
    driver got 18 months in jail for speeding that killed man

    the guy in the movie theater got a year and all he had to do was take out his videocam.
  • Privacy concerns? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by thewiz (24994) * on Thursday April 15, 2004 @12:24PM (#8870585)
    A automobile black box is a great thing as it allows the police to prove the guilt of an individual who killed someone with a car while speeding. It would also allow someone to prove they WEREN'T speeding when they hit someone that stepped out from between two parked cars instead of using the crosswalk.

    The only thing a blackbox records is what the car was doing, not what you were doing. The police still have to prove YOU were the person behind the wheel.

    If they were to start equipping cars with interior video cameras to record the occupants, then I'd be worried about my privacy!
  • by emaveneau (552950) * on Thursday April 15, 2004 @12:27PM (#8870632)
    List of car makes/models with such black boxes 51kb, 8 pages [harristechnical.com], possibly not exhaustive.

    Source story [www.cbc.ca] from where the link comes.

  • by linuxwrangler (582055) on Thursday April 15, 2004 @12:28PM (#8870636)
    Sure the "black-box" provided some evidence but it probably just corroborated other evidence making the case somewhat stronger.

    I don't know all the evidence the police have but it probably includes: severity of damage, lack of skid-marks, testimony of the passenger in the vehicle, and distance that objects in the collision were thrown.

    I'll bet they have a pretty good idea of the speed involved without the black-box. Maybe not that he was doing 3.14 times the limit but, say, 2-3 times the limit. Two decimal accuracy isn't important. The fact that he was way, way over the limit combined with his driving history is what sealed his fate.

    A better question is why, given his track record, was he allowed to drive and why is his punishment for wildly reckless driving resulting in the death of a human being a mere 18 months and why is he banned from driving for a mere 3 years? He obviously didn't learn his lesson after the previous triple-the-speed-limit crash.
  • by maggard (5579) <michael@michaelmaggard.com> on Thursday April 15, 2004 @12:30PM (#8870672) Homepage Journal
    First off it helps to understand that Montreal has a terrible drunken driver problem. The city is rightly renowned for its amazing nightlife but unfortunately too often this spills over into the streets, often with tragic consequences.

    Indeed among my social circle it's common to leave clubs a half hour before last call (3am) or plan on hanging out in a late night coffee shop or restaurant for 'til at least 4am before braving the downtown streets. Even then many of us intentionally take indirect routes to avoid the drunks.

    Its also useful to know that by US terms Montreal isn't a violent city. Indeed when I moved here I was appalled at all of the car crashes that lead the evening news. At least, I was appalled until I realized it was simply the maxim if it bleeds it leads in action and where US cities would have killings and gunfire in Montreal the news was having to settle (!) for mostly car accidents.

    The result is for the press, especially the extensive tabloid press, accidents and incidents like this are big news. Every media outlet in Montreal is talking about this today, and I'm sure tonight many partiers will be reconsidering their travel strategies.

    Finally, Ste. Catherine is the east-west "Main Street" through Montreal. Its a heavily built up with large and small stores, theaters, restaurants, and yes being Montreal, stripper clubs mixed in too. Even at 1am it is always heavily trafficked, both with vehicles and people coming and going through downtown.

    Frankly at Ste. Catherine & Foy there's no way one could reach the speeds this yoyo was going unless one floored the gas and held it (as his blackbox read.) It's not like cruising down main street in some small plains town where the signs at 1am are a formality and there's not a soul to be seen, this is a light every block with folks on the sidewalks everywhere and steady traffic throughout.

    So yeah, it looks like Quebec courts are gonna start using the 'expert testimony' of black boxes. Frankly I'm not concerned as the courts here do pretty much bend over backwards to find reasonable doubt and I've heard of cases dropped and evidence suppressed on some exceedingly conservative grounds.

    Compared to eyewitness testimony from traumatized folks, measuring skid marks and vehicle deformation, debris fields patterns, etc. these numbers are probably going to be useful, especially at confirming or contradicting all of the other evidence. in my book that's a good thing and you're vehicle is right is right in being mined for information, be it a crushed windshield, blood on the bumper, or data in it's black box.

  • by bmetzler (12546) * <bmetzler@ l i v e .com> on Thursday April 15, 2004 @12:32PM (#8870712) Homepage Journal
    If having black boxes in cars will make people more responsible for their actions, I am all for it. If they mean less people will die or be injured as a result of a driver breaking the law, it is a positive thing. I support black boxes because I believe in personal responsibility and accountability.

    I do think this would make the world a better place.

    -Brent
  • by reverendG (602408) on Thursday April 15, 2004 @12:37PM (#8870785) Homepage
    This guy Gauthier was going 98 miles an hour in a 30 MPH zone, and killed someone, and severely injured his passenger. What would be the analogous charge in the US? I can't believe that he's only getting 18 months in jail and his lawyer is calling the punishment "very very severe."

    I'm not defending the US justice system, I think we have some f'd up laws, but this sentence seems pretty lenient to me, consider the guy's obviously a maniacal driver.
  • by SensitiveMale (155605) on Thursday April 15, 2004 @01:02PM (#8871257)
    The black box just showed he was lying his ass off.
  • A modest proposal (Score:4, Interesting)

    by John Murdoch (102085) on Thursday April 15, 2004 @01:11PM (#8871387) Homepage Journal

    Executive summary: in this post I suggest that our Canadian cousins aren't at fault for carrying technology too far (in using event recorders to prosecute a vehicular homicide case), but that they do not go far enough. I propose that if we're going to use technology in support of public policy (safe driving, etc.) there's a lot better technology to use. Is this a good idea, or a bad one? You decide.

    Let's suppose that we're the feds, and we want to "use technology to save lives..."
    ...in the Vietnam-era sense of "we had to destroy the village in order to save it." Let's think about how we could--relatively inexpensively--implement technology solutions to:

    • Identify vehicles driven with expired registration, inspection, or insurance records
    • Identify vehicles driven by inappropriate drivers (junior licenses after midnight, etc.)
    • Identify vehicles associated with known felons (or associated with people who have permits to carry guns)

    Put a transponder on the vehicle instead of a license plate
    Vehicle identification today is based on century-old technology: the stamped metal license plate. Why not replace the license plate with a transponder? It would be a simple exercise: just embed the transponder on the license plate you already use, and pass legislation to make interfering with the device a summary offense. There would be some immediate benefits: a police officer stopping a vehicle at night, particularly a vehicle with an obscured license plate, could interrogate the transponder and automatically retrieve information about drivers associated with the car. If the stopped vehicle belongs to a person with a prison history for violent crime, the officer might respond with a lot more caution, or with backup. The felon is driving his girlfriend's car? Well--we can easily use a database to identify associations: if she posted bail, if she let him report her address to his parole officer, etc., we'd have her information in the database, associated with his. So if the cop stops a car licensed to her, he'd still be warned that there might be a violent felon behind those dark-tinted windows. That's a good thing, right?

    Integrate the transponder with in-vehicle information systems already in police cars
    A major cause in reduction in crime has been the installation of in-vehicle information systems in police cars. A cop can check outstanding wants or warrants in a jiffy, instead of having to radio information back and forth to somebody else at headquarters. When they were installed in a local township nearby, an enterprising sergeant went to a local shopping center on Saturday afternoon, and started typing in license plate numbers: he made half a dozen arrests that afternoon. Let the guy point a radio at the transponder instead, and integrate the radio with his in-vehicle system, and presto! Watch his productivity soar. A clever use of technology, no?

    Require mag-stripe devices as part of the ignition system
    Your driver's license probably already has a mag stripe on it--require a simple device in the car to accept a valid driver's license to start the car. And wire the device to the transponder--so interrogating the transponder identifies the vehicle AND the driver. Just think of what we can do then! We can identify kids driving on junior licenses after midnight, we can identify who was driving the car when the vehicle speeds past a checkpoint, or we can use information about vehicle and driver to monitor traffic patterns (where you live vs. where you work). Just think of the ways we can improve public safety, or even public transit. Neato, huh?

    Do we have your civil libertarian juices pumping, bunky?

    So ask yourself, is this a good thing?
    Because, through the course of history, government has used practically every new technology to advance its causes. Sooner or later it will use transponders, databases, and high-speed networks. And if those uses make you nervous, you might start thinking about what arguments you might make.

  • by cheezit (133765) on Thursday April 15, 2004 @01:12PM (#8871401) Homepage
    IANAL but...

    The facts of the case are established by the pedestrian's death and the coroner's report. The black box is just another witness to the crime, or perhaps secondary evidence. Same as a surveillance camera or skid marks on the pavement.

    Now if someone was convicted of a DUI where the only evidence was erratic driving as recorded by the box, you could expect the lawyers to have a vigorous debate over the reliability and admissibility of that evidence. For instance, what is the legal standard for "tamper-proof"?
    • I'd go one step further; the black box is 'extenuating circumstances.'

      If the box shows that you're breaking and avoiding, or at least trying to, it might just lend credence to your story that the guy jumped out from behind a parked cube van, and you couldn't see him.....

  • by lcsjk (143581) on Thursday April 15, 2004 @01:54PM (#8871990)
    1.) Is there a uniform standard for what data and how many seconds of time is allowed to be kept in the auto's black box? 2.) How is the accuracy insured? Can someone run into a kid and the black box show that they were only going 25 mph when they were actually going 50? The SRS (safety restraining system)is checked each time I start the engine, but that is only a processor and sensor-OK test. If the airbag does not employ properly or rapidly, does the black box still say it was ok when I started? (OK, three things.)
  • by Animats (122034) on Thursday April 15, 2004 @02:32PM (#8872561) Homepage
    Vehtronics [vetronix.com] makes a device for reading out this data. Here's the supported vehicle list. [vetronix.com].

    The airbag control unit has two "slots" in EEPROM for stored events, the "Deployment Event" and "Near Deployment Event" slot. The "Deployment Event" slot stores the last five seconds of data when the control unit fires the airbag. This is a one-time event - once this has happened, the airbag control unit cannot be used again. (It's replaced with the airbag, if the car is repairable.) "Near Deployment Events" represent situations where the airbag unit started the "fire the air bag decision" process, but decided not to fire the bag. Two successive accelerometer samples of 2G or greater wake up the air bag control algorithm. The biggest delta-V near-deployment event is stored; a bigger one replaces the old one. After 250 engine starts (at least in GM vehicles) the "near deployment event" is erased.

    There's local power storage in the airbag unit, so that even if battery power is lost, the airbag can still fire. So the data usually gets stored, too.

    The real purpose of this unit is to fine-tune the "fire the air bag decision" algorithm. Early airbags were going off in accident situations that didn't really require airbag deployment. The current generation is doing better. The NTSB collects this data. This found at least one defect. A few false deployments had occured on gravel roads when a big rock happened to hit the sensing unit. That's been fixed in current models.

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