Sunday, January 08, 2006

30,000,000 cars have 'little black boxes' in them

and we don't know about it. while i think it sounds like a DAMN GOOD IDEA to have them, i do NOT think it's a damn good idea for our rights to be violated. it appears they can measure the speed one was going just prior to an impact type crash, if one was wearing a seat belt, if one applied the brakes, things of this nature. of course i think it would help in sorting out accidents but one would hope warrants were involved in getting this data. seems like the potential for abuse is rather great here

Devices In Cars Secretly Snoop

Courant Staff Writer
January 8 2006

When state Trooper Jeffrey Covello crashed his cruiser last July in Plymouth, he knew supervisors would investigate the accident.What he did not know was that deep inside his Ford Crown Victoria was a small "black box," similar to those in airplanes, that recorded data in the seconds before impact - information that could be used against him by his superiors if he were found to be at fault."I had no idea my car had one," Covello, a 12-year veteran, said. "I feel like I took an oath to protect the Constitution for others but my own rights have been cast aside." Many civilian motorists are also unaware that the devices have been installed at the factory in some 30 million vehicles, including most new General Motors and Ford cars.Nobody was seriously injured in the Covello crash, which the trooper declined to discuss because it is still under investigation. Covello and other state troopers say that their department is on the wrong side of the law and that their civil rights are being violated because they were never informed their vehicles contained the black boxes.The issue has state troopers siding with defense lawyers, the American Civil Liberties Union and consumer watchdogs, who contend that the black boxes installed by manufacturers infringe on the privacy rights of motorists. "The vast majority of people don't even realize there is such a device for your car," said Eric Skrum, spokesman for the National Motorists Association. "If the American public knew about this device, they would protest it."GM began installing the boxes - also known as event data recorders - in 1999 for the model year 2000, as part of its air bag sensing system. The boxes can retain information from the five seconds, or more, before an accident, including the car's speed, the engine speed, whether the brakes were applied and position of the gas pedal. They also record information such as whether the driver was wearing a seat belt, whether the air bag deployed and the force of the collision.The devices originally were supposed to determine what caused a vehicle's air bag to deploy, but they are cropping up in civil court cases and to prosecute drivers involved in motor vehicle accidents across the country, including in Connecticut, legal experts say. The device was used to determine that a New Jersey man was traveling 101 mph five seconds before a crash that killed a high school senior in Enfield. The ordinary motorist in Connecticut has some legal protection under state law because, in most cases, police would have to obtain a search warrant before seizing anything from a private vehicle after an accident. Still, Chief State's Attorney Christopher Morano said, "It is coming up in cases." Philip Newbury, a civil litigator with a Hartford law firm, said black boxes are being used in lawsuits to prove fault in accidents because they provide data that can prove or refute other evidence."It's extremely valuable," he said. "Obviously, when it crosses the line from being a tool for detecting the truth and becomes a way for the government to determine how people drive their vehicles, it begins to cross the line as an invasion of privacy."I think that will become a whole new area of expertise," Newbury said. Charles Sinkovits, of Triodyne, an engineering consulting firm in Northbrook, Ill., said experts from his company are being called more frequently to testify about the black boxes. All cars with air bags have them, he said, but so far, only U.S. manufacturers have provided a way for the information to be easily downloaded."It's information. You use it accordingly and you don't abuse it," he said................

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