Friday, July 4, 2014

The Black Box

Today every newer car has a manufacturer “black box” installed in the vehicle which a driver/owner has no control over. It is pretty much impossible for the owner to remove. Warning lights come on in the vehicle to let the owner know when the vehicle needs service or whether there are other operational problems. Other vehicle tracking devices such as a telemetric Progressives Snapshop device may also be used to monitor your driving habits or patterns and even go so far as to identify whether someone else is driving your vehicle, can tell third parties how you drive, including how you break, turn, whether you are wearing a seat belt or how many miles your drive. 

Insurance companies may use the information to offer you premium discounts on your insurance. Car rental companies install these tracking devices in many rental cars to determine your location and how you are driving.  The GPS (global positioning systems) or On-Star and Locjack can locate you if you are in an accident or your vehicle is stolen. Other devices just monitor information about your vehicle such as a your license place and vehicle I.d. number so that a police officer can run your plate information and check the data base to determine if you have any outstanding tickets or warrants or whether you are suspected of engaging in criminal activity.   

How is the Information Accessed?

The information contained in the black box remains in the vehicle, but can be accessed when the device is plugged into a computer at the time your vehicle is serviced or a third party installs a device to read the information. Devices such as Lojack sends a coded Radio Frequency signal to police so that they can pick up the signal that is coming from your stolen car. LoJack works in places that GPS does not such as concrete building and steel.  GPS tracking signals works off of global navigation satellites which are operated by the U.S. government which in automotive tracking may be imposed onto a map to locate your vehicle and you.

While many vehicle owners like these devices because it warns them before their vehicle breaks down and offers other valuable protections if your vehicle is stolen or insurance premium discounts, others say it is an invasion of their privacy.   In this digital and technology age, private information is becoming much more public.
Who May Use the Information 

Besides the mechanic or dealership servicing your vehicle, your insurance company, law enforcement and investigators could use the information in connection with criminal activity or accidents to track your driving patterns, location or driving habits. 

Let’s say you are involved in an automobile accident which another driver caused, and you are injured. The tracking device could establish whether you were partially at fault or negligent and contributed to your injuries, especially if you sustain injuries because you were not wearing your seat belt.    

Or let’s say you are suspected or a crime and law enforcement wants to know where you are going or where you have been to place you at the scene of a crime. However, law enforcement must obtain a warrant first before installing a GPS tracking device on your vehicle before they can gather information which may be admissible in court. 

While we still have choices about whether we wish to have GPS, LoJack or insurance tracking devices installed in our cars, other devices such as the black box are here to stay. Some argue that these devices keep us safer, while others say they can be used against us and invade our privacy. One thing is certain-the debate over privacy and safety is expected to continue.