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Black Boxes In Your Car, Is Big Brother Watching You?

Published on April 19, 2012 under Humble Mechanic

A friend of mine posted this article today. It is a story about the government making a “black box” mandatory in all new cars. I like to talk about conspiracies as much as anyone, but I don’t want you to think I am scaring anyone! While Alex Jones is not the one that wrote the article, I need to be clear about my feelings before we get rolling. I am not much a Jones supporter. I think he gets it right sometimes, but usually hypes things up and promotes fear mongering. I am not down with that. Ok, with that out of the way, lets move on.

The post states

Section 31406 of Senate Bill 1813 (known as MAP-21), calls for “Mandatory Event Data Recorders” to be installed in all new automobiles and legislates for civil penalties to be imposed against individuals for failing to do so

So what does that mean? It means that the government wants a flight recorder style device installed in cars. Info Wars would have you believe that the government wants to steal the information from your car, and use it against you. Ah, my friends, odds are your car already has this device(s).

Every module in your car is simply a little computer. Like all computers data is saved and can be retrieve a later date.Take your engines computer(ECM) for example. When your check engine light comes on, your ECM stored data. It stores how fast you were going, what the engine temperature was, what gear you were in, and many more parameters. I use that data to help diagnose your car. ECM data, storage is nothing new. If your car is a 1996 and newer, it must store that type for information.

Here is where things get a little spooky. If your car has airbags, it has a module that controls the system. Much like the ECM an airbag module stores data. The exact information that is stored is not commonly known. In fact VW doesn’t really tell us what they store. But lets think about what we would want to know about a driver when they get in an accident.

  • How fast they were going
  • Where you wearing your seatbelt
  • Did they hit the brake
  • Did they turn the wheel
  • Where the lights on
  • Was a turn signal on
  • Where the wipers on

Now, this type of information would only be stored in the event of airbag deployment. Since I don’t see many cars after accidents, I don’t know the exact information that can be extracted. Also, like other information, a log in might be required. There are some functions of our scan tools that require a log in. VW doesn’t give those log ins freely. Trust me when I say that the information can be retrieved. As cars become more advanced, the information that can be stored will increase. So at some point, when someone gets in a wreck, the car will know if you are changing the station on the radio, rolling down the window, or even moving the seat. The technology is there. All modules can communicate with each other, either directly or indirectly.

The really creepy thing for me is

Biometric face-recognition and transdermol sensor technology that prevents an inebriated person from driving a car by disabling the automobile has already been developed, in addition to systems that refuse to allow the vehicle to start if the driver is deemed to be overtired.

You can bet something like this will be in cars very soon. I guess I wont be able to have been on lunch anymore. 🙁  NOTE~I don’t have beer on lunch or any time during work. That is stupid!

But what does this mean for us? Not much really. If big brother wants the information it is already there. Remember that big ordeal with Toyota and “unintended acceleration”? That stored information is how Toyota engineers studied the cases, and proved that one guy to be a fraud. The only thing that is a VERY slight concern to me is, systems like Onstar. The direct satellite link to a car is a little creepy. The funny thing is, I have my phone on me all the time, not much difference I guess. 😉

Folks, please do not panic about this type of thing. There are many more issues in our world that we need to focus on long before this one. Besides, the time to worry about this type of thing was 10 years ago. There is no going back. I will say, IF you are worried about things like this, stop driving, cancel your cell phone, and get off the internet. Ok, don’t get off the internet because you need to keep visiting this site. 😉

One more thing. I am working on a few things, but I need some help from you guys. What type of products do you buy for your car? Cleaning products? GPS systems? Ipod holders? Is there a product out there that you have always wondered if it worked, or it was worth the money? Post in the comments and give me some ideas.

If you think we should all wrap our cars in tin foil so the “man” wont know what it is thinking, click one of the share buttons below. That will show ’em.

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12 Comments

  1. Brandon

    One cool feature about the Onstar though, is if your vehicle is ever stolen,(and face it, some people don’t wanna PAY for german enginering) a study proved that in vehicles equipped with satelitte tracking, 95% of the time, the car was recovered in less that 30 mins. of being reported stolen.

        1. Jeremy

          I wouldn’t be surprised is VW/Audi comes out with their own version of OnStar. Or if OnStar branches out to other manufactures. I do know that in the United States you can buy an OnStar rear view mirror and hook it up and pay per month like an XM radio.

  2. Garrett Craven

    That is one major reason i installed a hidden external push button to unlock the doors! 🙂 i hate waiting an hour for AAA to come an jimmy my door lol plus i have left my cell in the car which was locked so i was royally screwed haha

    1. Brandon

      I have no idea what car you drive, but if its a newer VW with the smart key acess system, you cannot lock your keys in the vehicle, and when you get close to the vehicle with key in pocket and pull on the handle the door unlocks itself.

  3. Garrett Craven

    I guess there is pros an cons to the situation..it could work out in your favor if someone hits you and proves no fault. However it could suck to be the one at fault. In regards to the overtired or intoxicated systems..again they can obviously POTENTIALLY save lives but i can already see the first few years having kinks in the system lol youll be having some pretty pissed off people in the morning rushed to get to work cuz they overslept and the excuse “my car wouldnt let me drive” haha. As for onstar, yea its kinda cool for some features but it just freaks me out overall 🙂 i had a few rentals with it in em and had me uncomfortable, guess they take some gettin used to. I used to have my gps unit plugged in and mounted 24/7 cuz it was just easy to have it ready…UNTIL i noticed it had a microphone built in, however it doesnt have a voice activated capability! Now its in my trunk with a dead battery! Haha

  4. Garrett Craven

    Brandon, i definetly dont have a newer vw lol. That is pretty cool though..i like the technology and features of newer cars but at the same time its just crazy…my dad always bought more of the “bone stock” kinda vehicles without all the bells and whistles. When we would be browsing a dealer stock i always pointed out the new cool features and he would resort to a 5 spd with manual locks and windows lol. He told me “the more parts there is, the more parts that can break”. I know thats not the most accurate logic but i enjoy my “simple” 96 jetta (when compared to new cars)

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