Technology continues to advance

Just ignore the man behind the dashboard

Andy Bolig - August 12, 2011 09:00 AM


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Progress is a funny thing. While some savor the perceived benefits of technological advancements or techniques, others will still wish for those good ol’ days when things were less complex. I have a feeling that in this instance, many of us will fall into the latter category.

There has been a bit of talk lately about an item that has sailed under our radars for a while now – black boxes. When they first came out, many enthusiasts were quick to condemn them as infringements upon our privacy, even while the auto and insurance industries were touting them as a learning tool and beneficial for finding out “what went on” in the event of an accident, or “event.” For those who don’t know, black boxes are very similar to those items of the same name that we fervently search for in airplane wreckages to help understand the situation that led up to and during the crash. Much information can be gleaned by locating and “listening to” what the black box has to say. Now, they’re talking about how you drive as well. To be honest, an auto’s black box only records certain criteria for a few seconds leading up to the event and a few seconds afterward to give investigators a view into what really transpired. Think of it as a running loop recorder with around a 10-second window. It keeps recording and when the airbag goes “boom,” it records for a few more seconds and then stops, capturing the events immediately before the event and a few seconds after it.

As OEM manufacturers are increasing the amount of information gathered during such events, many outsiders are trying to work out how much of that information SHOULD be allowed, how it can be used, and by whom. If you own the car, do you then own the information contained therein? If so, can that information be used against you in court, without your consent? Among the many entities besides auto manufacturers that have the capability to disseminate this information are insurance companies, the police and even dealerships.

The case can be made that the only way the information can come back to haunt you is if you are doing something wrong. If you were riding around with a police officer in the front passenger’s seat of your car, you wouldn’t THINK of doing a smoky burnout, would you? Just think of him as a permanent resident, deep within the dashboard of your ride. That should help.