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NHTSA Publishes Black Box Rule

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has published a final rule specifying uniform requirements for the accuracy, collection, storage, survivability and retrievability of onboard motor vehicle crash event data in passenger cars and other light vehicles voluntarily equipped with event data recorders (EDRs), otherwise known as "black boxes."

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The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has published a final rule specifying uniform requirements for the accuracy, collection, storage, survivability and retrievability of onboard motor vehicle crash event data in passenger cars and other light vehicles voluntarily equipped with event data recorders (EDRs), otherwise known as "black boxes."

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The final rule responds to several petitions for reconsideration of the August 2006 rule.

Black boxes are not required in all vehicles, but the August 2006 final rule set requirements for car companies that choose to equip their vehicles with EDRs. These black boxes are intended to record a variety of crash data in a format able to survive in a crash and still be retrievable by crash investigators.

The final rule includes several technical changes to air bag trigger thresholds, sensor accuracy and range, accelerometer accuracy, and data survivability and retrievability. The new rule requires all manufacturers to comply by September 2012, except for vehicles manufactured in two or more stages or that are altered, which must comply by 2013. According to the agency, this date change will allow manufacturers to avoid incurring additional costs related to redeveloping EDRs outside the normal product cycle. Voluntary compliance is permitted before those dates.

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Public Citizen, a consumer advocacy group, asked the agency to mandate that all vehicles be equipped with EDRs instead of permitting voluntary installation.

Petitions for reconsideration of this final rule, due Feb. 28, should refer to Docket NHTSA-2008-0004 and be submitted to: Administrator, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 1200 New Jersey Ave, S.E., West Building, 4th Floor, Washington, D.C. 20590.

Additional information on the final rule is available by contacting David Sutula, Office of Crashworthiness Standards, at (202) 366-1740, for technical and policy issues; and Rebecca Schade, Office of the Chief Counsel, at (202) 366-2992, for legal issues.

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