Black boxes to be required in all new cars from 2015

April 23, 2012 by Amara D. Angelica

(Credit: Frederic Guimont/Wikimedia Commons)

A new bill (Senate Bill 1813, known as MAP-21) passed by the U.S. Senate in March calls for “mandatory event data recorders” to be installed in all new passenger motor vehicles sold in the U.S. for recording data before, during, or after a crash.

As stated in Section 31406 of the bill, the government would have the power to access it in a number of circumstances, reports It may also require an “interoperable data access port” to facilitate “universal accessibility and analysis” — by EMTs in case on an accident, for example (think: hacker-accessible).

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Barbara Boxer [D-CA] and promoted by Sen. Harry Reid [D-NV], would also empower the IRS to revoke passports of citizens merely accused of owing over $50,000 in back taxes. Could the black box or a similar technology be used in the future for the same purpose?

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

The ultimate Big Brother scenario would be a system whereby every driver had to get permission from the government to drive each time they get behind the wheel, once it had been determined from an iris scan that they were good citizens who have paid all their taxes and not misbehaved, suggests

Or perhaps the massive computer systems running future “smart cities” could sense driver emotional state (say, road rage, or even intentions), and disable the vehicle, or else access the phone’s GPS and have law enforcement pull you over? Maybe the black box in the future will eventually monitor everything happening in the car, with real-time feeds to Homeland Security?

Yes, but am I paranoid enough?

On the plus side, the legislation would prohibit “electronic screens from displaying broadcast television, movies, video games, and other forms of similar visual entertainment that is visible to the driver while driving.” (Nothing said about displaying tweets, text messages, emails, etc., or about augmented reality displays on windshields.)

Update May 3, 2012: Spelling of Sen. Reid’s name corrected. — Ed.