Just like those data recorders in planes that reveal the actions of pilots involved in accidents, the car versions will tell investigators what you were doing behind the wheel of your car. But privacy advocates worry about what else it may reveal.
Those shopping for new vehicles will soon get more than they bargained for. A data recorder will be watching a driver's every move.
Beginning in September of 2014, every new vehicle sold in the U.S. will be required to have a so-called black box.
The boxes record the last few seconds before a crash, providing clues such as vehicle speed, steering, whether the brakes were applied and if the driver was wearing a seatbelt.
"If you are guilty of something it's going to hurt you," Car Pro Show Radio Host Jerry Reynolds said. "If you are innocent it's going to be a real defense for you."
The insurance industry supports the move, even though most drivers are unaware that 96 percent of cars sold today already have data recorders installed.
"People are dying on the freeways, and these people are trying to make it so that doesn't happen," car shopper Ray Brown said. "That's a good thing."
But privacy advocates say the government and automakers are steering toward a slippery slope by spreading an intrusive technology without policies to prevent the misuse of information.
"The two concerns we have with this technology are number one: these black boxes belong to the owner and the data on them shouldn't be available to the police or anyone else without a warrant. And number two: that people are aware that these are in their cars," Jay Stanley, with the ACLU, said.
Information collected from data recorders is already showing up in lawsuits and some high-profile accidents.
In the 2007 accident involving former New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine, the data recorder showed Corzine was not wearing a seatbelt and the SUV a state trooper was driving was going 91 miles an hour, well above the speed limit.
It's a new mandated feature to be debated far beyond the showroom.
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