The Event Data Recorder (EDR) or “black box” provides our experts with a powerful tool, allowing us to reconstruct the events of a collision in greater detail, with higher accuracy, and with more precision than ever before. These black box modules began appearing in General Motors vehicles as early as 1994 and were relatively primitive in that they primarily recorded crash severity data for frontal collisions. However, as is the case with all electronic-based components, the capabilities of these black boxes have increased significantly since their introduction. Modern modules are capable of recording a multitude of parameters, which could include front occupant seat belt use, general front passenger weight, steering wheel input and even individual wheel speeds. Additionally, unlike black boxes of old that could only record data in 1 second increments, some newer modules are capable of recording data every 1/10th of a second, allowing for more refined and accurate analysis. Not only have these black boxes evolved to be a lot more powerful, but the number of automotive manufacturers who support the technology is also growing annually. For example, prior to the year 2000, General Motors was the only major automotive manufacturer to support black box data retrieval. Fast forward to 2015, and there are currently more than 37 vehicle brands (including exotic vehicles such as Lamborghini and Alpha Romeo) that have embraced EDR support. In fact, chances are that if a vehicle was made in 2010 or later, it supports black box downloads.
With the continual advancement of automotive technologies, future EDRs could undergo even more substantial increases in capability. With every model year, vehicles are being fitted with additional sensors, including forward facing cameras and radar sensors which could join the list of parameters recorded by black boxes in the future. The latest push by manufacturers such as Mercedes-Benz and Audi is to supply completely autonomous vehicles capable of communicating directly with roadway infrastructure and other vehicles. This opens up a whole new realm of possibilities into the future of black box technologies!