AAA urges privacy protections for automobile “black boxes”

WASHINGTON (December 12, 2012) – AAA supports the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) proposal to mandate event data recorders (EDRs) on all new light vehicles, as long as motorist privacy is protected.  AAA will submit formal comments on NHTSA’s proposed rule and call on Congress to address privacy concerns related to EDR use.

“Data recording devices play a critical role in advancing vehicle safety, but motorists should own the data their vehicle generates,” said Robert Darbelnet, President and CEO of AAA. “Congress needs to ensure motorist rights are protected by passing legislation that prohibits access to data without permission from the owner or from a court order, unless the data is used for research purposes and cannot be tracked to a single vehicle.”

Event data recorders, also known as vehicle “black boxes,” monitor various functions including speed, acceleration and deceleration, steering input, braking and seat belt use. Event data recorders are present in approximately 91 percent of new vehicles, according to NHTSA. Law enforcement often use the data to investigate fatal or serious injury crashes. Insurers will occasionally use the data for complex claims investigations or litigation.  Additionally, traffic safety researchers can use anonymous EDR data to advance our understanding of crashes and improve vehicle design and traffic safety.

“All auto manufacturers should be required to prominently disclose the existence of EDR devices on new vehicles, not just with a sentence in the owner’s manual,” continued Darbelnet. “AAA looks forward to working with NHTSA and Congress to ensure strong privacy protections for motorists.”

NHTSA’s proposal would mandate the installation of event data recorders in all light vehicles manufactured on or after September 1, 2014. The proposal maintains the requirement for consumer notification in vehicle owner’s manuals and compliance with existing crash test performance and survivability requirements.   The public has 60 days to comment on the notice.

As North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 53 million members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. AAA clubs can be visited on the Internet at