Senate-Passed Bill Would Mandate Black Boxes in Cars, Plus More
The Senate has just passed a bill that would make it mandatory for all new cars in the United States to include black box data recorders from the year 2015. It would also allow the IRS to confiscate the passport the suspicion of owing taxes. SB 1813, called the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP 21), passed in the Senate quite easily after heavy promotion from Harry Reid and Barbara Boxer. The bill next moves on to the Republican controlled House, where they plan to add the Keystone Pipeline to the legislation.
Section 31406 of the measure calls for “mandatory event data recorders” to be installed in new vehicles not later than 180 days after the bill’s enactment, and mandates penalties on individuals who fail to comply. There has been a push for over a decade to install the boxes in vehicles. In 2006, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration encouraged automobile makers to install the systems. But NHTSA Administrator David Strickland said that when millions of Toyota vehicles began to be recalled, government officials considered making the technology mandatory.
The boxes soon to be mandatory, has the support of the U.S. National Research Council, which had investigated the response of the NHTSA following the reports of sudden acceleration problems in Toyotas. “Failures associated with electronics systems — including those related to software programming, dual and intermittent electronics hardware faults, and electromagnetic disturbances — may not leave physical evidence to aid investigations into observed or reported unsafe vehicle behaviors,” said the NRC. “Similarly, many errors by drivers using or responding to new electronics systems may not leave a physical trace.”
The NRC determined that it would be best to install event data recorders in all vehicles to assist in safety investigations, and recommended that “NHTSA [strive] to make electronic event data recorders commonplace in all vehicles.”
Enter the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act. Although the bill also indicates that the data would remain the property of the vehicle’s owner, the government does have the power to gain access to the black box under a variety of circumstances, including by court order, if the owner consents to make it available.
The NHTSA says already 85% of vehicles already come equipped with black boxes. Guidelines state the boxes must measure such things as speed, position of the gas pedal, whether or not the brakes were pressed, seat belt usage, and the amount of time it took for airbags to deploy.
But critics contend that the data box is part of the slippery slope to total surveillance of the transportation habits and whereabouts of Americans.
The National Motorists Association asserts:
There is no rational or scientific need nor justification to equip tens of millions of vehicles on a perpetual basis with black boxes.
While denials abound there is good reason to believe that the promotion of universal black box installation in new vehicles has more to do with regulatory, enforcement, judicial, and corporate economic interests; all at the expense of vehicle owners who are forced to pay for and retain this form of self-surveillance.
The NMA does not object to safety research that involves the use of black boxes, as long as the participants are informed and willing and they are allowed to opt out of research project without negative consequences. As noted, such research can be reliably conducted with thousands of willing participants, versus millions of uninformed conscripts.
Also, to the black box provisions, MAP 21 would permit the IRS to revoke the passport of any citizen accused of owing $50,000 or more in taxes. There are several exceptions, however. If the person has set up a payment plan and is paying on time; or is legitimately disputing the debt; or is involved in an emergency situation; or has a humanitarian reason and must travel internationally, he or she may be excepted from the rule for a limited amount of time.
Timothy Meyer, a constitutional law professor at the University of Georgia who has served as a State Department lawyer, the provision is actually legal. Because there are already laws in place that limit a person’s right to travel, Meyer contends that the bill is legal. The State Department screens passport applications for those who owe child support of more than $2500. And the IRS will be holding some Americans’ tax refund checks if they have defaulted on their student loans, owe state or local taxes, or have unpaid child support.
And furthermore the bill also contains provisions to develop technology to “detect drug-impaired” drivers and the development of testing for similar devices that measure alcohol concentration in the body while in the vehicle. So House Republicans are hoping to force Senators to attach a provision for approval of the Keystone XL pipeline to the bill. Such a move would place Senators in a difficult position. And it may compel the President to veto the bill if it did pass both chambers.
Tags: detects speeder, Harry Reid and Barbara Boxer, invasion of privacy, mandatory black boxes in cars, Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP 21), National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, SB 1813, Section 31406, U.S. National Research Council
This entry was posted on Tuesday, April 24th, 2012 at 8:35 am and is filed under General. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.
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