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NHTSA ponders need for 'black box' in cars

November 10, 2010

Event data recorders, or \"black boxes,\" should be required in all vehicles sold in the United States, said the administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

David Strickland spoke March 11 after the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection held a hearing entitled, \"NHTSA Oversight: The Road Ahead.\" The subcommittee is examining the operations of NHTSA and its handling of the recent Toyota recalls.

Black boxes likely would track actions that occur in the seconds before and after a car crash. Since 2006, event data recorders have been encouraged for automakers but not required, leaving the technology by which to record such information up to the manufacturer.

Various considerations are under review by NHTSA and certain Congressional committees that have jurisdiction over the agency. Future oversight for automakers could include, but would not necessarily be limited to, ruling that brake-override technology is mandatory; requiring the data from EDR’s be easily accessible by regulators; and increasing funding for additional staff to augment NHTSA’s investigative efforts.

The NHTSA evaluation marks the beginning of a process that officials say will take shape in the coming months.