data recorders or black boxes have numerous technical problems
that can hinder crash investigations, according to a new government
2002, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration tried
to analyze post-crash information from 684 vehicles equipped with
data recorders. In 60 percent of those cases, information about
the vehicle was downloaded with no problems. But 40 percent of
the time, the data wasn't available, according to data presented
Thursday at a conference for auto engineers, The Associated
6 percent of those cases, crash damage prevented investigators
from reaching the recorder. Technical problems, such as bolts
that required special tools for removal, prevented access in 31
percent of cases, while software problems were the culprit in
23 percent of cases.
“Chip” Chidester, a crash investigator with NHTSA, said the recorders
needed to be reasonably priced. He also said the recorders should
comply with standards and include the same type of data.
now, we have to carry at least 20 different cables (to an accident
scene),” Chidester said. “I want as uniform a system as I can
Kreeb, a technology consultant who represented the auto industry
at the conference, said automakers should be allowed to develop
said other issues should be considered, such as who owns the data
and whether insurance companies should have access to it.
recorders are now in an estimated 25 million vehicles in the United
States, Chidester said. That's about 11 percent of the 221 million
vehicles on the road in 2000.
Motors Corp. began installing the devices in 1994, Chidester said,
while Ford Motor Co. began installing them in 2001.