Car Tracking Devices?

This past Saturday was an icy day in Baltimore where an oil tanker truck flipped over and exploded…causing about a 65 car pile-up. The local news reporter today said the police will access data from the truck’s recording device, plus the 65 cars’ recording devices to determine the sequence of events… Wait, what? Since when did Personal Occupancy Vehicles (POVs) cars (i.e., non-commercial vehicles) get tracking / recording devices? Is this the best dirty little secret yet? What’s the SD on this one?

Do you have a link to this news report?

BTW did you see the video of the accident? That truck blew the F up like Nakatomi Plaza.

They probably meant the cars which have cameras installed. These would have been installed by the private car owners. Also if there were some company/government cars, those might have had cameras.

Anyway these days it is a good bet that at least few of the cars had cameras.

Also many businesses and some homes have surveillance cameras. So police will go door to door checking for that footage as well. (If something happened near those places.)

As for trucks, many semi-trucks have camera systems and GPS tracking devices installed.

New cars have “black boxes”.

Been this way for decades, as I understand it. ‘Tracking’ isn’t quite accurate, either (AFAIK only cars with embedded GPS units can do that*) more like throttle, brake, velocity, seatbelt/airbag status etc.

Just about every car with OBD2** records the last 20 seconds before the crash. Here’s a site that discusses extracting this data in a little more detail.

*Onboard GPS was analyzed by Turkish police in 2011 to track the movements of a team of suspected Russian hitmen eliminating Chechens living in Turkey

**OBD2 has been required in every car sold in the US since 1996

The real issue is not whether the black boxes exist in vehicles (they do), how much data is collected just before an accident (it varies), but who actually owns the data. So if you get into an accident, can law enforcement download the data without your consent (warrant)? Not every owner is protected, depending upon the state in which you live.

I assume it began as a “cover your behind” thing with automakers. The computer that triggers the airbag automatically preserves the last few seconds (10?) of travel data showing speed, braking, and various inertial sensors for collision when an airbag goes off. I assume this was to verify if an airbag went off (or not) for a valid reason in case of a lawsuit. Presumably once you throw in built in GPS for some cars, that data is also preserved. Do cars actually store camera video, unless it’s a separate dashcam? But my car has lane departure and collision warning, and I assume when anything that triggers that alert, the status of the alert is preserved in the data too.

So as long as your airbag went off, the authorities can probably get a good idea of the role your car played in a massive pile-up; moving? Stationary? Braking? Hit? In what direction was the impact - did it push you forward, push you back? Not sure what happens in multiple impact situations, because one the airbag goes off you probably stopped recording.