The Truth About Cars » EDR The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Wed, 23 Jul 2014 18:25:17 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » EDR Will the New Transportation Bill Mandate Black Boxes in All New Cars? Thu, 19 Apr 2012 19:16:51 +0000 The new highway bill recently passed by the U.S. Senate, the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act or MAP21, has come under some criticism, in part because of a provision that would give the IRS power to strip American citizens of their U.S. passports if they own the federal government enough money. Another provision of S.1813 also has civil liberties implications, particularly for motorists. If the Senate’s version of the legislation survives the reconciliation process with the House, the final bill would make the installation of event data recorders (EDRs) mandatory in all new cars sold in the United States starting in 2015.


(a) Mandatory Event Data Recorders-

(1) IN GENERAL- Not later than 180 days after the date of enactment of this Act, the Secretary shall revise part 563 of title 49, Code of Federal Regulations, to require, beginning with model year 2015, that new passenger motor vehicles sold in the United States be equipped with an event data recorder that meets the requirements under that part.

The cited part of CFR 49, establishes standards for EDRs if manufacturers voluntarily install them. S.1813 would make such installation, as the legislation says, mandatory, with civil penalties imposed on manufacturers for non-compliance. Theoretically the the car owner or lessee would still own the data, but the bill carves out exceptions that could give the government broad access to your personal travel data.

(2) PRIVACY- Data recorded or transmitted by such a data recorder may not be retrieved by a person other than the owner or lessee of the motor vehicle in which the recorder is installed unless–

(A) a court authorizes retrieval of the information in furtherance of a legal proceeding;

(B) the owner or lessee consents to the retrieval of the information for any purpose, including the purpose of diagnosing, servicing, or repairing the motor vehicle;

(C) the information is retrieved pursuant to an investigation or inspection authorized under section 1131(a) or 30166 of title 49, United States Code, and the personally identifiable information of the owner, lessee, or driver of the vehicle and the vehicle identification number is not disclosed in connection with the retrieved information; or

(D) the information is retrieved for the purpose of determining the need for, or facilitating, emergency medical response in response to a motor vehicle crash.

While most Americans would not have much objection to Parts A and B, court ordered or consensual searches, Parts C and D create issues over civil liberties. They also might give the federal government powers that constitutionally rest with the individual states. Traffic laws are enforced at the state and local levels in the United States. Sections 1131 and 30166 of CFR 49 are what gives the National Transportation Safety Board it’s authority to investigate transportation accidents. That authority is fairly broad and technically covers all motor vehicle accidents so the new legislation would appear allow the NTSB to have access to EDR data even in the event of a minor fender bender.

Currently federal and state highway taxes are paid through levies on fuel and some have suggested that the mandated EDRs are a preliminary step to GPS based mileage taxes. Highway taxes, state and federal, are collected through levies on gasoline and diesel fuel (“This truck pays $X,XXX a year in road taxes”). EVs and cars powered by natural gas end up paying no road taxes. Part D references information retrieval to facilitate emergency responses to accidents. That could only work if the data recorder also logged GPS data, so responders would know where to find accident scenes, but which could also be used to determine how many miles you traveled in which jurisdictions for taxing purposes. That comes close to perpetual surveillance.

Part D is potentially very troubling. I can’t see how EDR data can help emergency responders once on the scene, the legislation only makes sense if they have access to the data before getting on scene. It’s access to airbag deployment and GPS data that would facilitate emergency response, getting them to the scene of an accident quickly, not access to that and other data once on scene. None of the information stored in the EDR would be relevant to responders on scene. Part D seems to be purposed to give government agencies real-time access to systems like OnStar, so that emergency responders would be notified of airbag deployments and the like, along with GPS data to locate the site of the accident. Do you really want your government to have real time access to your GPS data?

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can dig deeper at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

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Confirmed: WSJ Writes Nonsense About Toyota EDR Amnesia. Jalopnik In Same League As WSJ Fri, 16 Jul 2010 11:11:07 +0000

Welcome to amateur hour. As reported yesterday, The Wall Street Journal claimed in a story that Toyota’s “data recorders can lose their information if disconnected from the car’s battery or if the battery dies—as could happen after a crash.” Their source was “a person familiar with the situation.” Commentator Carquestions concluded that the source doesn’t know what he or she is talking about. After we wrote about it, Carquestions fingered the not so knowledgeable source as “a secretary within Media Relations at the DOT.”

Instead of talking to a secretary, the WSJ could have done what we did: Call Toyota headquarters in Tokyo. It took TMC spokesman Paul Nolasco less than 10 minutes to round up an engineer, and to confirm to TTAC that Toyota’s “EDRs use non-volatile memory.” For the non-nerds: Non-volatile memory doesn’t lose the information when the battery dies. Remove the battery from your cell phone. Put it back in. Your phonebook, your messages and pictures of questionable nature will still be there. Non-volatile memory in action.

As Carquestions also correctly points out, the U.S. code for EDRs (to come into effect in 2012) specifies that “data recorded in non-volatile memory is retained after loss of power and can be retrieved with EDR data extraction tools and methods.”

Now nobody forces Toyota to comply with a code that isn’t in effect yet. To extinguish any lingering doubt, Nolasco said: “Our EDRs are designed to retain their memory even after they are disconnected from an electric power source.”

Why did the WSJ rely on “people familiar with the findings”, and not on the people familiar with the Event Data Recorder? Why are anonymous sources used if people who can lose their job if they talk nonsense are ready to answer a simple question? Why did the WSJ even print a story that was old hat as readers of the Financial Times know?

You think the story ends here? No, it doesn’t.

Yesterday, another story was floated: The British site Just-auto reported that the Wall Street Journal story was “planted by Toyota.” Just-auto even found a source for that assertion, an unnamed “NHTSA spokeswoman in Washington” that supposedly said: “That story was planted by Toyota. Toyota is the source – yes we know that for definite.” Jalopnik ran a similar story, claimed they “spoke with a NHTSA employee (who wished to remain nameless)” and said that they “received a somewhat similar response.” Why does it smell like Jalopnik called absolutely nobody, and simply cribbed the Just-auto rumor? And why does it appear as if Just-auto talked to the same ditzy secretary that had never heard of non-volatile memory?

The big story (driver error) wasn’t planted by Toyota. It had been told by Daniel Smith and Richard Boyd of NHTSA weeks ago, and was just warmed-over by WSJ. And why should Toyota plant a story of  EDRs with Alzheimer’s, and then go on record today and say the opposite? Just-auto claimed that “Toyota in Tokyo could not be reached for comment.” Well, if you forget that Tokyo is 8 hours ahead of Bromsgrove, Worcs., no wonder nobody will pick up the phone. Friendly tip to Just-auto: When it’s noon in Bromsgrove, it’s 8 in the evening in Toyko, and even the worst workaholics are on their way home or in a Ginza bar.

This turns into a C-movie, a really bad one.  Secretaries usually don’t comment about Data Recorders. A government agency usually doesn’t accuse a company of planting a story. Wall Street Journal reporters usually call the other side for confirmation. People usually look at their watch when calling other continents. Someone is desperately trying to keep a story alive that had been dead at the get-go. May we ask that this is done with a bit more finesse?

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What’s Wrong With Toyota’s Black Boxes? Fri, 19 Feb 2010 01:17:02 +0000

At the Wednesday press conference in Tokyo, Toyota slipped in the remark that they “will more actively use on-board event data recorders, which can, in the event of a malfunction, provide information necessary for conducting such activities as technological investigations and repairs.”

This remark was widely overlooked. It should not have been.

Five days before, the Wall Street Journal had written:

“The safety problems that have engulfed Toyota Motor Corp. are focusing renewed attention on one of the most controversial components in an automobile: the black box. The box, officially called an “event data recorder,” is a small, square, virtually indestructible container akin to those found on commercial airplanes. Tucked inside the dash or under the front seats of most newer vehicles, it records vehicle and engine speeds as well as brake, accelerator and throttle positions and other data that can help determine the causes of accidents.”

If there would have been such a black box in the Toyotas that had crashed, it would have been easy to read out whether the foot was on the gas or on the brake. Guess what: Toyota has this box. It had been in many of the crashed vehicles, says the Wall Street Journal:

“Toyota, like Japanese peers Honda Motor Co. and Nissan Motor Co., has a proprietary black-box system, and it says the data it collects isn’t intended or capable of accident reconstruction because it is only recorded for a short duration—about one second. The system mainly monitors the performance of a vehicle’s safety devices, such as air bags, seat belts and, in some cases, throttle application. Toyota says there is no rule or legislation that requires otherwise until a new NHTSA rule comes into effect later in the decade.”

One would think that Toyota is pouring over the contents of its data recorders to prove that nothing more serious than a loose carpet or a missing metal shim creates mayhem in their cars. Instead, Toyota seems to have strange troubles with its proprietary system, as chronicled by the Wall Street Journal:

- On Nov. 27, 2009, 55-year-old Barbara A. Kraushaar drove through three Auburn, NY, downtown stoplights at high speed and crashed into another vehicle, killing its driver, Colleen Trousdale. Says the WSJ: “According to the Auburn police, an investigator from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration arrived in town and took the Camry’s data recorder, saying he planned to take it to California, where Toyota has its U.S. headquarters, so their expert could download the data.” Auburn Police never heard from Toyota, says the WSJ. Also “NHTSA didn’t reply to requests for comment on the Auburn incident.”

- “In 2007, Bulent Ezal was pulling into the parking lot of a cliffside restaurant in Pismo Beach, Calif., when his 2005 Camry surged, went over the bluff and crashed on rocks 70 feet below. Mr. Ezal, 75, survived, but his wife, who was in the passenger seat, was killed.” Police could find no mechanical fault, and concluded that Ezal was at fault. Ezal’s Lawyer, Donald Slavik, has been trying to get data from the car’s black box for nearly three years. He was told by Toyota that the data would only be provided if Mr. Slavik got a court to order the company to do so. Later, Toyota told the lawyer “the data in the black box was unusable.”

- “On Dec. 26, Monty Hardy, 56, was driving three passengers in his 2008 Toyota Avalon on Lonesome Dove Drive in Southlake, Texas, when the car ran through a stop sign at about 45 mile per hour, crashed through a fence, struck a tree and landed upside down in a pond, according to a police report. All four occupants were killed… After the crash, investigators from NHTSA and Toyota’s black-box expert flew to Texas to join police in searching for the cause of the accident. They found the black box in the car covered in muck from the pond. According to police reports, the Toyota investigator tapped into the box and said the only data it contained was the difference in the speed of the car immediately before and after hitting the fence and the tree.”

- A black box was in the 2009 Lexus ES350, driven by Mark Saylor, a 45-year-old California Highway Patrol officer. He and three members of his family were killed when their vehicle hit speeds exceeding 120 mph and crashed. The 911 call made by one of the family members was on all the airwaves. In an answer to the questions of the LA Times, Toyota said :“Toyota agreed to perform a readout of the EDR in the Saylor vehicle. In the presence of representatives of all interested parties and the Sheriff’s department, Toyota attempted to perform the readout as agreed. However, due to the extensive damage to the EDR unit from the crash, it was impossible to perform a readout.”

Is the black box technology in such an early stage of development that there is only one prototype readout tool, as Toyota said to the LA Times, and that it is so hard to retrieve conclusive data? asked an interested reader with 20 years experience in automotive safety components and recall investigation to give us an update on the state of the black box art. Here is his report:

Event Data Recorder Access: What Is Toyota Hiding Behind Its Black Box?

For almost a decade, the increasing sophistication and interconnectedness of the electronically-controlled devices and systems in passenger vehicles has offered the opportunity to collect and store ample data for post-crash accident investigation.

Since the late 1990′s, individuals have participated in DOT-sponsored workgroups with the aim of developing industry guidelines (e.g. IEEE & SAE) for and advising government rule-makers on EDR-related topics. Represented were the US and Canadian governments, EDR suppliers, universities, the insurance industry, and certain OEM’s, among them GM, Ford, DaimlerChrysler, VW, Honda and Toyota.

According to an August 2001 report from the workgroup, “The results of a NHTSA-sponsored engineering analysis show that EDR data can objectively report real-world crash data and therefore be a powerful investigative and research tool, by providing very useful information to crash reconstructionists and vehicle safety researchers. Due to significant limitations however, EDR data should always be used in conjunction with other data sources.”

The types of data that can be captured and stored are limited only by the available sensors, integration into a vehicle-communication protocol (i.e. CAN-BUS or Flex-Ray), software-design, computing power, and available memory. At the time of the NHTSA report (2001), GM’s EDRs were already capable of the following:

Capture: State of the driver’ belt, vehicle speed, engine RPM, “brake odoff,” and throttle position;

Transmit and Input: The driver seat belt switch signal is typically input into the SDM, while the remaining sensors are monitored by one or more other electronic modules that broadcast data according to a “send on change” based design (e.g. a change in engine speed of more than 32 RPM, broadcasts the new RPM value on the serial bus).

Store, archive, update and recover: In airbag deployment or a near-deployment crashes, the last 5-seconds of data are stored in an EEPROM (recoverable with appropriate PC-based equipment.) This means, every second, the SDM takes the most recent sensor data values and stores them in a recirculating buffer (RAM), one storage location for each parameter for a total of 5-seconds. When the airbag sensing system “enables” on impact, buffer refreshing is suspended;

Certain 1999 models had this capability, and almost all GM vehicles were expected to add that capability over the next few years.

Compare where GM was in 1999, with the claims found by the L.A. Times on the Toyota website. Toyota’s EDR’s are capable of recording data including, among other things, brake pedal application and degree of application of the accelerator pedal.

On the side of reading data out of EDR’s, in 2000, the Robert Bosch Corporation developed their CDR (Crash Data Retrieval) unit. Many models by GM (1994), Ford (2001), Chrysler (2005) and Nissan (2007) have the capability for crash-event data to be stored in their proprietary EDR’s, and to be freely retrieved by licensed 3rd parties via a Bosch CDR unit.

While the Bosch CDR units can be freely purchased and used, and training and support is widely available through Bosch, in North America, Toyota takes a totally opposite posture. Toyota appears to engage in practices intended to limit access to the data recorded by Toyota’s EDRs.

Contrast the situation surrounding the OEM’s above with Toyota’s own answers to questions from the L.A. Times (edited for brevity). Given Toyota’s apparent lack of confidence in the software or electronics in its prototype crash analysis tool, one can not help but wonder if this is really due to the tool, or the production systems it was designed to analyze:

“Toyota does not yet have a commercially available EDR readout tool and currently has only one prototype readout tool in the U.S. Toyota performs EDR readouts for law enforcement under certain circumstances. We are also occasionally ordered by various courts to perform EDR readouts. A readout for law enforcement is a community service that Toyota performs. Toyota does not have the capacity to perform readouts using its one prototype tool in all cases.”

“Toyota’s EDR is capable of recording only the previous several seconds of activity before and/or a fraction of a second after a crash or near-crash situation.”

“Given the fact that the readout tool is a prototype and has not been validated, it is Toyota’s policy not to use EDR data in its investigations. However, Toyota has used the readout tool under certain circumstances.”

“EDR data ownership varies state by state. The prototype software used by Toyota to perform EDR readouts is proprietary, as is the case with all auto manufacturers. Toyota does not contend that the EDR readout data is proprietary. When a data retrieval tool is commercially available, any data retrieved will then as now be subject to applicable state law.”

“Federal regulators require Toyota and all other OEMs w/EDR equipped vehicles to make a data retrieval tool commercially available by 9/1/12. Toyota will, of course, comply with this requirement.”

Given the mature nature of EDR technology and the degree to which its competitors have made their EDR data available for 3rd-party download; the limited circumstances (e.g. court order) under which Toyota makes its single “prototype” device available, the way in which Toyota characterizes the software within as “unvalidated” and unreliable, and Toyota’s persistence in these actions despite the obvious conflict of interest (as the sole party that can release EDR data), one has to wonder what Toyota is hiding behind their black box.

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