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Transportation Technology

What a Black Box Data Dump Looks Like 643

Posted by Soulskill
from the recording-for-posterity dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Massachusetts Lt. Governor Tim Murray recently crashed his Ford Crown Victoria while reportedly traveling 108 mph. The car was pretty much shredded, but Murray walked away without major injuries. According to data from the car's black box, Murray and the Crown Vic experienced the equivalent of 40 gravities during the crash. The data contradicts the story he gave police. Maybe we should strap black boxes to all our politicians."
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What a Black Box Data Dump Looks Like

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  • Advice (Score:5, Interesting)

    by stanlyb (1839382) on Friday January 06, 2012 @01:27PM (#38611366)
    So, the first thing you should do after a car accident is to find and destroy its black box, so your insurance company would have no way to avoid paying the, what, insurance?
    • Re:Advice (Score:5, Funny)

      by ackthpt (218170) on Friday January 06, 2012 @01:33PM (#38611448) Homepage Journal

      So, the first thing you should do after a car accident is to find and destroy its black box, so your insurance company would have no way to avoid paying the, what, insurance?

      "The most interesting thing about the damage your vehicle suffered, is that the passenger compartment is largely intact, except for this little plastic box in the back of the glove box, which appears to have suffered severe physical trama at the end of a tire iron. I don't think we're going to honor your policy, sir."

      • Re:Advice (Score:5, Funny)

        by DigiShaman (671371) on Friday January 06, 2012 @01:53PM (#38611770) Homepage

        Temporary insanity. After bringing the car to a safe and complete stop of course.

    • Re:Advice (Score:5, Insightful)

      by hawguy (1600213) on Friday January 06, 2012 @01:56PM (#38611794)

      Or you could, you know, drive responsibly and treat your car like the potential deadly weapon that it is. So when the insurance company looks at the black box data, it matches your story.

      As long as the data is read by an independent third party and made available to the driver (and his lawyer), the black box data shouldn't be something to fear.

      • Re:Advice (Score:4, Insightful)

        by GreenTom (1352587) on Friday January 06, 2012 @02:26PM (#38612200)
        Our, you know, OP could RTFM: The retrieval of this data has been authorized by the vehicle's owner, or other legal authority such as a subpoena or search warrant...
        • by hawguy (1600213)

          Our, you know, OP could RTFM:

          The retrieval of this data has been authorized by the vehicle's owner, or other legal authority such as a subpoena or search warrant...

          I think the OP's point was that insurance companies could require access to the black box data as a part of an insurance policy. There are no clear laws over who owns the data and who can access it:

          http://www.consumeraffairs.com/news04/2006/02/black_boxes_states.html [consumeraffairs.com]

          What's not clear in this case is if the police had to request permission from Murray to access the data, or if they only had to have permission to release the data.

    • the first thing you should do after a car accident is to find and destroy its black box

      first i would asses if i was or was not at fault and if the black box contained information that could help or hinder my case.

  • Engineering (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 06, 2012 @01:28PM (#38611382)

    Some luck was involved, but anything that and car that can handle a crash at 108mph ( a bazilion kph for those of you out of the US) is damn amazing. I love engineers. They have made our lives so much better and are so unappreciated.

    • Re:Engineering (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Binestar (28861) on Friday January 06, 2012 @01:45PM (#38611630) Homepage
      Examples like this are what I use to counter people who say regulation is horrible, free market should reign uncontrolled. Cars weren't and would not be this safe without regulation enforcing it.
    • Re:Engineering (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Noughmad (1044096) <miha.cancula@gmail.com> on Friday January 06, 2012 @01:48PM (#38611700) Homepage

      Some luck was involved, but anything that and car that can handle a crash at 108mph ( a bazilion kph for those of you out of the US) is damn amazing. I love engineers. They have made our lives so much better and are so unappreciated.

      108 mph is only around 174 km/h. I know Americans like "crusing", on big roads with low speeds, but on our highways people going over that are fairly common, despite the 130km/h limit.

      More on topic: isn't it possible the data was wrong?

    • by couchslug (175151)

      "I love engineers. They have made our lives so much better and are so unappreciated."

      True, true. We may even give ours some leftovers from the next Sales luncheon.

  • They usually record less data for maintenance purposes than the kind the insurance companies are clamoring for. These limited datasets have been subpoenaed for auto accidents.
    • by ackthpt (218170)

      They usually record less data for maintenance purposes than the kind the insurance companies are clamoring for.
      These limited datasets have been subpoenaed for auto accidents.

      How do they go about recording? I presume it's a loop in memory, which is only so many hours, or days capacity. My 3 year old car already has 115,000 miles on it. Some tale it could tell.

    • by glop (181086)

      They will ask Walmart for video footage to identify who bumped into your car and drove away.
      At least that's what the insurance told my wife once...

      • by ackthpt (218170) on Friday January 06, 2012 @01:42PM (#38611592) Homepage Journal

        They will ask Walmart for video footage to identify who bumped into your car and drove away.
        At least that's what the insurance told my wife once...

        I need fore and aft GoPro cameras in my car - record my drives. What amazing things I could turn over to the CHP! The people passing on the shoulder, tailgating, yakking on phones. putting on make-up, shaving, picking noses...

        • by ae1294 (1547521) on Friday January 06, 2012 @02:10PM (#38611950) Journal

          They will ask Walmart for video footage to identify who bumped into your car and drove away.
          At least that's what the insurance told my wife once...

          I need fore and aft GoPro cameras in my car - record my drives. What amazing things I could turn over to the CHP! The people passing on the shoulder, tailgating, yakking on phones. putting on make-up, shaving, picking noses...

          STOP S.T.A.L.K.I.N.G MY WIFE!

        • by midicase (902333)

          I have fore and aft cameras on my vehicle that record when driving. It is fairly easy to setup. A mini camera mounted above the rear-view mirror. Another at the top of the back windshield. I replaced the stock lens on each with wide-angle to get a broader view but it is not as fun to watch the fish-eye results. The feeds are recorded on a vanilla 100 USD 4-channel home security camera system mounted in the trunk. Replaced the hard drive with an SSD and slightly modified to run off DC only. Spent abou

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 06, 2012 @01:29PM (#38611400)

    If he was going that fast, he'd be dead. He didn't have a single scratch on him at the press conference. If the tires spin out on black ice, does the black box adjust for that? or would it just assume he's actually moving at the rate the tires are spinning?

    • by ByOhTek (1181381)

      Accelerometers are cheap. A crash from that speed isn't necessarily lethal.

      • by ByOhTek (1181381)

        addition: And a person, if luck, could get away with it, with only bruises, many of which, internal and not visible.

    • by v1 (525388)

      The box has no accurate way to tell your spontaneous speed unless blondestar is recording your gps positions constantly (it may be) But it CAN use accelerometers to measure g-forces while it's recording time. g-forces over time between start of event and full stop can pretty accurately measure how fast you were going when you started to slow down, whether the slowdown was applying the brakes or hitting a tree. (this works as long as you end up stopped, which serves as the reference point)

    • by jandrese (485)
      I take it more as an indication of how good the safety systems on modern vehicles are, he crashed at over 100mph with no seatbelt on, and basically the airbags and crumple zones saved his life. Twenty years ago this would have been a story about how he skidded on some black ice and died.
  • by ackthpt (218170) on Friday January 06, 2012 @01:31PM (#38611420) Homepage Journal

    "... Maybe we should strap black boxes to all our politicians."

    Don't be foolish, they would explode from all the weaving, diving, bobbing, feints, corrections, double-backs and plowing through verbal feces (the black boxes, not the politicians.

    • "... Maybe we should strap black boxes to all our politicians."

      Don't be foolish, they would explode from all the weaving, diving, bobbing, feints, corrections, double-backs and plowing through verbal feces (the black boxes, not the politicians.

      Exploding politicians would still be nice.

      (At least, ones that explode if they do too much weaving, diving, bobbing, feints, corrections, double-backs and plowing through verbal feces.)

    • Politicians are kind of like Cockroaches.. In more ways than one...

    • by dpilot (134227)

      Unfortunately...

      In modern America, Politicians strap black boxes to YOU!

  • by AngryDeuce (2205124) on Friday January 06, 2012 @01:32PM (#38611438)

    Maybe we should strap black boxes to all our politicians.

    Explosives would be far more beneficial to society in general...

  • by jpapon (1877296) on Friday January 06, 2012 @01:35PM (#38611468) Journal
    I think they buried the lead here... 100mph, sans seat-belt, and he walked away? That's goddamn incredible. I've seen first hand what an accident at 170km/h looks like (on the Autobahn) and walking away seems basically impossible.
    • by Animats (122034) on Friday January 06, 2012 @02:28PM (#38612222) Homepage

      I think they buried the lead here... 100mph, sans seat-belt, and he walked away? That's goddamn incredible. I've seen first hand what an accident at 170km/h looks like (on the Autobahn) and walking away seems basically impossible.

      You have to be impressed with the performance of the air bag system. The logging shows the seat belt unbuckled, and the air bag controller firing the first stage charge, then the second stage charge 10ms later as the system detects a severe crash.

      The accelerations indicate the car first hit something that didn't stop the vehicle. Then it hit something hard, but either bounced off or broke through. That's the brief 40G spike. (Football players experience 40G spikes in normal play.) Then there's some banging around.

      Understand that this is just the airbag's record. All the airbag controller has is some accelerometers and seat belt information. Airbag controllers record that data primarily to improve the performance of airbags. [brpadvancedairbags.org] In the early years of airbags, there were a very few incidents where airbag deployment caused fatalities. (The worst it ever got was 0.5 fatality per million years of car registration.) This was essentially fixed (down to 0.01) by 2003. About a second of data is kept at all times, and shortly after the airbag fires, that data is locked in memory. Note that there's only 712ms of history here. The deceleration of 23MPH during airbag deployment is about typical for a crash that didn't involve hitting a solid obstacle like a bridge. The airbag has to fire at just the right time to be most effective, and the two-stage systems have to react properly to accidents of various types and severity. Here, the airbag system did exactly what it was supposed to do, and the driver walked away from the crash.

      There's no vehicle computer data in the report. Vehicle data has more data sources and much longer term.

  • by RichMan (8097) on Friday January 06, 2012 @01:35PM (#38611476)

    The black box is hard mounted to a solid part of the car. The black box and associated accelerometers stop hard.
    A person in a seat, surround by air bags and wearing a seat belt does not stop nearly as hard.

    Now if there had been no seat belt and no air bags .....

  • 108? Typical /. bull (Score:2, Informative)

    by mapkinase (958129)

    The investigation showed Murray was driving 75 miles per hour in the seconds leading up to the crash, which occurred before dawn on a stretch of Interstate 190 in Sterling. But his foot fell harder on the car’s accelerator, increasing his speed to 108 miles per hour as he slid off the roadway and into a rock ledge, flipping twice. His speed was recorded at 92 miles per hour upon impact with the ledge.

  • by Wierdy1024 (902573) on Friday January 06, 2012 @01:40PM (#38611550)

    It seems, looking at the raw data, that while "40G's" is quoted by the summary, and words like "totalled" are used, the data recorded by the box only shows a 15MPH crash.

    There is other dubious data - for example, the box sensors indicate that the box accelerated by 22MPH while the data was being retrieved - ie. while sitting on some investigators desk - seems unlikley!

    The crash acceleration data itself contains some very high amplitude high frequency oscillations - with a frequency around 200Hz. These are much bigger than the crash itself. That could be vibrations going through the car after something goes "twang", but could even be the stereo bass turned up loud. These vibrations are where the "40g" comes from - the actual crash is more like 1 or 2 g.

    Note however there may be more information that wasn't recorded.

    • by Leuf (918654) on Friday January 06, 2012 @02:13PM (#38612000)
      So, you read the data and tried to interpret it, but didn't RTFA or look at the picture of the mangled car? Here's a hint, a 2g crash does not result in the right front tire being separated from what used to be a car. It was severe enough to bend the A pillars, but that probably happened while the car was flipping over twice. Yeah, it was probably just the stereo though.
  • Disclaimer (Score:5, Insightful)

    by girlintraining (1395911) on Friday January 06, 2012 @01:42PM (#38611576)
    There's a disclaimer right there on page one:


    Accident reconstructionists must be aware of the limitations of the data recorded... should compare the recorded data with the physical evidence...

    Those disclaimers do mean things. The data was never intended to be used as a "black box"; That's purely media hyperbole comparing it to what's in an aircraft, which is designed to aid in accident reconstruction. The courts routinely dismiss GPS tracking data on phones used as evidence that the driver wasn't speeding because the device isn't meant to be used for that, and isn't precise enough anyway. An officer's radar gun, however, is.

    That said... let us all look to the sky now and return to mumblings about conspiracies between or about the government and/or insurance companies.
  • by ohnocitizen (1951674) on Friday January 06, 2012 @02:04PM (#38611880)
    From TFA: He was doing 75mph in the seconds leading up to the crash, then accelerated to 108mph. This lead them to believe he probably fell asleep at the wheel. I sympathize, having lived in MA 75mph on the Pike is nothing (people drive far faster). Also having lived in MA I can sympathize with him falling asleep at the wheel. Massachusetts residents often drive while asleep or at least while dozing.

Faith may be defined briefly as an illogical belief in the occurence of the improbable. - H. L. Mencken

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