The Automotive Black Box Dilemma

Founder AUTOCYB®
5 min readSep 3, 2019
In Court, the party offering the download must establish, based on physical evidence, a chain-of-custody from the time and date of the crash to prevent spoliation of evidence and to assure the Court that the data is accurate.

Can Disruptive Technology Also Protect Privacy?

While the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) was studying Event Data Recorder (EDR) technology, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) issued in 2004 the first universal, voluntary standard specifying minimal performance characteristics for memory devices in autos, trucks, buses, ambulances, and fire trucks.

IEEE Standard 1616 is an international protocol issued to help manufacturers develop black boxes with up to 86 data elements that will survive in crash situations.

IEEE and others have argued that NHTSA’s EDR regulations did not go far enough to protect owners’ privacy.

Thus in 2010, IEEE issued a new Standard 1616a, which specifies a lockout system to block unauthorized access that could otherwise lead to data tampering, odometer fraud, and VIN theft.

It reasoned that such steps are necessary to ensure that motorists embraced the EDR technology in the long run.

With this lockout standard, a motorist would have a separate key which would lock access to the OBD-II connector (as well as the EDR download).

In a letter to the NHTSA Administrator, IEEE stated:

“we believe public acceptance is crucial to the goals of this rulemaking… . We agree with the findings of a National Academies study that noted “Paralleling the concerns over legal acceptability of EDRs are concerns over public acceptability. A consumer revolt against the installation of EDRs could negatively impact sales and/or lead manufacturers to offer owners the option to turn off their EDRs or even stop installation of them altogether. These options would seriously limit the amount of EDR data collected for research by personnel in law enforcement, insurance, government, manufacturing and education.”