HomeLifeDriveNew cars sold in Australia may adopt 'black box' recorders

New cars sold in Australia may adopt ‘black box’ recorders

From July 2024, all new cars in Europe must include an Event Data Recorder (EDR) as a standard feature. Australia might adopt a similar requirement through its participation in the United Nations’ World Harmonisation of Vehicle Regulations. 

The World Harmonisation of Vehicle Regulations is an international framework or set of standards established by the United Nations to create consistency and uniformity in vehicle regulations across different countries. 

Commonly referred to as ‘black box recorders’ in aviation, EDRs in cars capture data such as speed, braking, the vehicle’s position, and activated safety features in the event of an accident. This information is recorded five seconds before and 0.3 seconds after a crash.

Does Australia have to comply?

It is important to note that local regulators are not obligated to adhere to the UN vehicle standards. The ultimate authority over new vehicle regulations in our market lies with the Australian government. 

“Although Australia subscribes to the World Harmonisation of Vehicle Regulations,” explained a spokesperson from the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development, Communications and the Arts, “all local regulations are set by the Australian Government – in consultation with the public and stakeholders – and are not automatically applied.”

The spokesperson elaborated, stating: “Data and privacy implications of EDRs are still being considered within the context of Australia’s privacy laws, which are different to those of other countries, along with work on broader policy options taking into consideration how this technology would work in the Australian context.”

As Australia contemplates this big move, it is important to know the real-life applications of this technology, including instances where black box data played a crucial role in identifying the culprits in car collisions.

What do EDRs do?

In the US, car manufacturers such as GM and Ford have been using black boxes since the 1970s to assess how well airbags work during crashes.

In recent years, the integration of EDRs in automobiles has emerged as a pivotal tool for accident investigation and providing valuable insight into the causes of road accidents. These devices are designed to capture data five seconds before and 0.3 seconds after a crash. This data includes vehicle speed, throttle speed, braking patterns, and whether the airbag was deployed or not.

All of this data is saved into an Electrically Erasable Programmable Read-Only Memory chip. After an accident, this data can be accessed using several methods, such as a link connector or CDR tool.

Some EDRs can collect up to 30 additional types of data, including information on the driver’s seat position at the time of the accident and whether both the driver and front-seat passenger were wearing seat belts or not.

By analysing this information, authorities can gain a comprehensive understanding of the events leading up to a crash, making it easier to figure out who is responsible.

Do EDRs reduce accidents?

Dutch study found that the accident rate of vans and trucks was reduced by almost 20 per cent after fitting black boxes. This reduction was largely attributed to the psychological impact on the driver of having the boxes fitted to their vehicle.

In the United Kingdom, young people buying a car often opt for vehicles equipped with black box recorders to qualify for reduced car insurance premiums.

Black box recordings were first used in the UK in 2006 during a court trial in Birmingham, where a 21-year-old man crashed a Range Rover Sport into a Jeep, causing a baby girl to be paralysed. The data from the black box showed the investigators that the man was speeding at 72 mph in a 30 mph zone.

In 2010, a man faced prosecution for causing the death of a passenger due to dangerous driving. Forensic experts found that the car was speeding at 74 mph five seconds before the crash, and the driver only hit the brakes 0.3 seconds before the collision.

Privacy concerns about EDRs

While introducing EDRs is imperative for accident investigation and prevention, concerns regarding data privacy and ownership persist. 

Black boxes gather extensive data, and most people are concerned about who has access to this data and for what purposes. There is also an ambiguity about who owns the data, whether it belongs to the vehicle owner, insurance companies, or the government, raising questions about data rights and control.

Like other devices, black boxes may be vulnerable to hacking or unauthorised access, leading to privacy breaches and misuse of personal information. 

Although the recorded data is anonymised and considered the property of the vehicle owner, questions remain about the extent to which authorities can access this information and the implications for individual privacy rights.

Do you think cars in Australia should be fitted with black box recorders? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Also read: Privacy – now you can’t even get it going for a drive

Ellie Baxter
Ellie Baxter
Writer and editor with interests in travel, health, wellbeing and food. Has knowledge of marketing psychology, social media management and is a keen observer and commentator on issues facing older Australians.


  1. This is a fantastic idea. Anything that can save lives and injuries should be adopted.
    Currently, police crash experts spend ages having to work out after a crash, the speed, direction, braking times etc.
    This device would be very helpful, maybe even make all that unnecessary.

  2. The car empire has moved on a long from when a single chip for the Engine Management Computer was all that was present and all that was needed. Now there are a multitude of sensors monitoring almost every aspect of the vehicles movement.
    Whilst the Dutch study may’ve shown a significant reduction in crashes, these types of changes often flatten out as the drivers become used to the idea that this monitoring and recording is a permanent fixture in the vehicle. The presence of FDRs and CVRs in commercial aircraft didn’t reduce the crash rates but brought about design, service and training changes across the industry which was part of an evolutionary change in aviation transport.
    The vehicle manufacturers would be in favour of such an inclusion as the cost is only a few dollars and will knock out quite a few spurious Warranty claims where operation of the vehicle fell outside normal practice.
    The cabin microphone is already in place, so a simple matter to record all that is said in the car as well as what is happening dynamically.
    Will people be happy with this?
    If insurance premiums can be brought down for those with the systems and there is a clear financial benefit, it will be accepted by many.

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