BRAKE TECH: Black Box Car Info Could Make Cars Safer

There has been a lot of stories about black box data. Is clear that this type of system will become mandatory in future vehicles. But, the question no one is asking is what data will be stored in the black box.

If you have a vehicle made after 2004, chances are that it has a high-speed data bus. This means the engine computer is sharing data with the body control and ABS/TCS modules. Parameters like throttle angle, brake pedal switch and even steering angle position are being shared on a common network.

Most current black box systems become a module or node on the high speed network. This means that the black box can access a lot of information. On vehicles with electronic brake pad wear sensors, it can even monitor the signal from the BCM to turn on the light in the instrument cluster to turn on the brake pad wear light. Also, some late model vehicles with individual brake pressure transducers can even monitor a brake pulsation complaint.

But, it is unclear what information will be recorded by the black box. The approach of NHTSA and DOT is to create a “technology neutral” law or standard. In layman terms it means the new regulation will say: “All new vehicles sold after 2015 must be equipped with a black box recorder.” The law will not specify parameters or even tools to pull the information from the black box.

But, if a black box can record parameters like brake pad wear sensors, brake pedal travel  or even service information like maintenance light resets it might make consumers more likely to take better care of their vehicles.