By on May 20, 2010

Rep Henry Waxman’s version of the Motor Vehicle Safety Act passed the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection today, and will go before the full Committee On Energy And Congress. The subcommittee markup [in PDF format here] includes a number of provisions that the industry and others had argued against, such as a $9 fee on each new vehicle sale, and mandatory event data recorders (EDRs) which would “continuously record vehicle operational data” and store all data from 60 seconds before, and 15 seconds after a crash. According to Automotive News [sub], Rep John Dingell is in negotiations with committee chairman Waxman to mitigate two key proposals: the removal of a cap on NHTSA fines, and the granting of so-called “imminent hazard” authority.

Dingell (D-MI), whose wife was a longtime GM lobbyist, is probably negotiating a new cap on NHTSA fines, likely to be somewhere above the $16.4m maximum recently paid by Toyota. And rather than fighting “imminent hazard” authority itself, Dingell is likely proposing an appeal system for automakers in danger of having sales forcibly stopped by NHTSA.

On the other hand, the subcommittee website has a record of other amendments which failed to make the markup. One amendment, by Rep Ed Whitfield (R – KY) would have required that

event data recorders be configured to allow the owner of the vehicle to enable and disable the recording function without interfering with the safety functions of the vehicle

No such luck. Another Whitfield amendment would have sought to keep established privacy guarantees for “trade secrets and commercial information” in the course of government agency regulation, by removing clauses from the bill that would have voided these guarantees for:

(1) Production information regarding passenger motor vehicles, information on incidents involving death or injury, and numbers of property damage claims.

(2) Aggregated numbers of consumer complaints.

Another failed amendment would have given NHTSA up to five years to roll out new standards mandated by the act, instead of two. Another would have removed the $9 per new vehicle sale “vehicle safety user fee.”

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13 Comments on “Motor Vehicle Safety Act Passes First House Hurdle...”


  • avatar
    jkross22

    $9 fee. For what? Where will that money go?

    Ahh, who am I kidding. It’ll go into a ‘general fund’ to fund whoever needs to be bribed with a special project for their state.

    Our tax dollars hard at work.

    • 0 avatar
      Acc azda atch

      I thought every car had a EDR… then again I thought every driver wasn’t an asshat..– enter a Toyota driver.

      Ntm,
      I have YET to figure out where the 16.5mil fine went.. from Toyota to the NHTSA.

      Exactly.. where IS all of that dough!?

  • avatar
    bnolt

    Waxman is the most unctious, nanny state supporting, control freak that has ever ‘served’ in Congress. Whatever good intentions are in this thing are sure to be outweighed by a multi-pronged attack on our personal liberties. This guy knows no other way. “Continuously record vehicle operational data”… I’m sure we’ll be assured that our privacy will be protected. heh. Of course the option for the owner to disable the system was voted down. They can’t really be expected to let the sea of unwashed rubes that pay their salary to know what’s in their best interests, can they? The insurance companies and trial lawyers are gonna love this. Who wants to bet the bill will be 2000 pages long, 1950 pages having nothing to do with the issue at hand? Never let a good crisis go to waste.

  • avatar
    Lumbergh21

    “mandatory event data recorders (EDRs) which would “continuously record vehicle operational data” and store all data from 60 seconds before, and 15 seconds after a crash.”

    I think this sounds like a great idea when examined in a vacuum. However, I do not trust that the data recording will belimited to 60 seconds before and 15 seconds after a crash. In the real world, I see this being expanded to several days, weeks, etc. of data being maintained that law enforcement agencies can access when they deem it necessary.

  • avatar
    FleetofWheel

    You would hope that those who opposed the Patriot Act would oppose the recording of personal vehicle operation data.

    Eventually, in-car cameras and voice recorders a la flight recorders will be ‘the next logical step for our safety’.

  • avatar
    h82w8

    More stupid, intrusive, bureaucratic big-nanny legislation that will do bupkis to actually improve automotive safety. These idiots in Congress like Waxman know no bounds of their abject quixotic hubris and blind faith in government to right all wrongs and solve all ills. Gimme a scotch…I need to come down off the ceiling.

  • avatar
    vww12

    Don’t you guys think this law is very likely to pass?

    Over the last 40 years we’ve seen a pattern where:

    1. There is some sort of accident or hype, or actual crime that happened to someone (often ‘children’)

    2. A really bad, spur-of-the-moment, emotional law gets proposed

    3. It gets approved pronto!, with bipartisan support

    I guess we’ll have to buy a car from the year before the law goes into effect, and keep it a long, long time…

  • avatar

    Q: Don’t most new cars already have an EDR or an equivalent? Thus, would this legislation just act to federally require and codify something that is already in place?

    That said, the more I read about proposals like this, the more I like my 30-year-old cars.

    Black market growth industry: laundered EDRs. Hm, it looks like all this car ever did was take trips to church every Sunday at 25 mph… how about that?

  • avatar
    FleetofWheel

    As cars become web-enabled and synced to our personal data clouds, our cars will be a repository of personal information.

    This makes the data more vulnerable because courts have long made rulings that privacy rights in your car are far less than in your home.

  • avatar
    1996MEdition

    What are you people doing in your cars that you don’t want anyone to know about? Geez…. this is an EVENT DATA RECORDER…..it records data on the systems in the car…..it doesn’t record your thoughts, voices, image, or whatever smells in the back seat…..so put away your tin foil hats and stop looking for that chip imbedded under your skin!

    If EDR information can be used to establish liability for an accident (be that driver error, excessive speed, ambient conditions, component failure, etc) then I see it as decreasing litigation in the long term (less lawyers are always good, right?). I think the missing piece of legislation is how data from EDR’s will be used. There should be limits enforced on what events can be analyzed and who does the analysis, this way there is legal recourse if data is used for a purpose other than intended.

    • 0 avatar
      golden2husky

      You’re not serious, are you? While I firmly believe that big business has less than zero interest in anything other than jamming money in its pocket and would do everything in its power to hide life threatening defects in the pursuit of the almighty dollar, you can’t really think that you car should be a tattletale do you? This will become a one way valve; next step automatic weekly downloads…You buy the computer in your car. The data should belong to you, period. The insurance industry would love to bill based on driving style. Once you go down this road you can never go back. If this comes to pass, remount the computer with quick release mounts and if you get into the accident, remove the computer and destroy it.

  • avatar
    bnolt

    Tinfoil hat my ass! What do you think is going to happen when you’re going 46 mph in a 45mph zone and a single mom with a minivan makes a left out of her driveway right in front of you? Now she’s dead. But you say there was no possibility of avoiding the collision? You never applied the brakes dude! It’s obviously your fault, and the box says you’re guilty! I conjecture that the lawyers will have to figure it out, but suspect you’ll be cited for cause due to your irresponsible behavior. Just try to convince the jury that 1 mph didn’t make a difference. Maybe we can call some expert witnesses, depending on your financial resources. Maybe you’ll manage to avoid the vehicular homicide charge, maybe not. So much for decreasing litigation, huh?

  • avatar
    LJD

    As I make my living as an auto insurance claim representative, I’ll share my two cents on EDRs.
    They will be helpful during liability investigations but will be only a small part of the puzzle.
    For handling liability disputes, I need scene photos, both drivers’ statements, witness statements if applicable, vehicle photos, and if possible a police report.
    As for bnolt’s scenario, I would ask him when he first saw the minivan. When did you notice it first move? What was your reaction? I would ask the other driver the same thing.
    If you’re confident in your story, that’s helpful. If you’re not, we’re gonna talk about how you might sound in front of a jury.
    That’s if liability is hard to prove and the evidence is shaky.
    EDR data might back up your story, it might not.
    Also, EDR data would be considered the property of the vehicle owner. If you don’t share that data with your insurance company you may find yourself violating the cooperation clause and finding yourself without coverage for the accident. Maybe. If it’s not absolutely necessary for investigating liability, I wouldn’t hold it against you.
    EDR data is just another tool to help make investigating accidents better.


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