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Event Data Recorder (EDR)

An EDR is a device installed in some automobiles to record crash or accident related information. Often triggered by crashes, it senses problems in the engine or sudden change of wheel speed. That way after an accident the recorded data can be used to analyze the crash and what happened before it. Basically the EDR is similar to the ‘black box’ in airplanes, only modified for cars and trucks. Most EDRs are part of the restraint system control module (airbag ECU).


Legislation requirements


Extractions of 49CFR563:


In case of an airbag deployed crash the previous data will be deleted and data related to deployment must be captured and recorded. Also the memory must be locked.


In contrast, in an airbag non-deployed crash the previous data is only deleted if the trigger threshold is met. Up to two records can be captured and held.


The information in the owner manual according to 49CFR563 § 563.11 [link] has to include:


  • how system was operating, if seatbelts were buckled
  • how far/or if accelerator/brake was depressed
  • how fast the vehicle was going


Market situation


One of the world leading companies in EDR record imaging technologydesigned and manufactured a tool called the ‘Crash Data Retriever' (CDR) which is used by accident reconstructionists and law enforcement to retrieve data from an EDR.


Conflicting interests


The NHTSA has a policy that EDR data would be treated as the property of the vehicle owner and not accessed without his or her permission. The agency also noted in its new 56-page document that it “does not have any authority to establish legally-binding rules regarding the ownership or use of a vehicle’s EDR data.” Advanced EDRs can collect detailed information about drivers and their driving habits; including the size and weight of the driver, the seat position, the habits of the driver as well as passengers.


Automakers cannot access EDR data without consumer permission, and any government requirements to install EDRs on all vehicles must include steps to protect consumer privacy. But privacy advocates are raising the alarm bells, and want the agency to require data safeguards, including demands that data be anonymized, and to prohibit the marketing of it.