Everybody knows about the flight data recorders in commercial airliners. They’re the black boxes accident investigators use to help figure out why airplane crashes happen. What you probably don’t know is that your car has a black box a lot like them.
Automakers in the United States began installing data recorders in the 1970s when the first air bags became available. These tiny computers sense when your car slows down suddenly, like in a collision. Then it sends a signal that pops your airbag. It all happens in an instant â€” so fast that your airbag stops you from slamming into the steering wheel.
Starting in 1999, more-complex recorders began collecting more information â€” your speed, how fast the engine is turning, how hard you’re pushing the accelerator; if you’re pushing on the brake pedal and how hard; whether your seatbelt is fastened. If you have a crash, engineers can put together this information with injury reports to help improve performance or in recalls of faulty equipment.
Right now, these recorders store data from five seconds before a crash. That’s enough to tell the engineers what they want to know. Some people think collecting and storing more than five seconds’ worth of information would be a good idea. Others aren’t sure it’s necessary.
Anyway, it’s time to take our data and drive on out of here.