GM is supporting a Texas congressman’s push to require event data recorders in all vehicles sold in the United States. Event data recorders (EDRs) capture multiple data streams from a vehicle prior to the deployment of air bags. In some cases, EDRs record much more data and (in the case of Nissan GT-R owners) have been used to void warranty claims.
While no one would argue that EDR’s will assist with accident reconstruction and could potentially improve vehicle safety, there is a down side to capturing data that can be accessed by anyone with a subpoena. Say, for example, you’re stretching the legs of your ZR-1 Corvette when you lose control and total the car. If the events leading up to the crash were captured on an EDR, what happens when your insurance company subpoenas the data from the EDR? Do you think they’re going to honor your policy when it’s revealed that you were driving at 2x the speed limit?
Even if you feel no sympathy for the reckless Corvette driver, what happens when you rear end the car in front of you in rush hour traffic? Sure, you were only going 30 mph but you were distracted by the sun in your eyes and couldn’t stop your Buick in time. What do you think the insurance company will say when they get the EDR data and demonstrate that you were tailgating? “Coverage voided,” would be my guess.
Today, insurance companies aren’t allowed to deny coverage based on EDR data. How long do you think this will last? Today, EDR’s generally record only the last few seconds before a crash. As flash memory increases in capacity and decreases in cost, what will stop manufacturers from building EDRs that record days, weeks or months worth of data? How long before this data will be used against you to deny warranty claims, issue citations or void insurance coverage?
Am I paranoid? Perhaps, but I can’t help but wonder who’s really behind the push for EDRs in all vehicles. If you dig deep enough, I’m sure you’ll find an insurance company link.