Vehicle Safety Part 1: Event Data Recorders


Initially motor vehicle event data recorders (MVEDR) were used to monitor & improve airbag performance. However, the electric power to deploy an airbag could fault EDR activation!

It is estimated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) that vehicle manufacturers voluntarily install EDRs on approximately 96 percent of new motor vehicles. 

Data from an EDR can be downloaded only if the registered owner of the vehicle consents or a court orders the download. See Veh. Code §9951 (c).   Law section (

Can an EDR be disabled?

  • Federal law prohibits car dealerships and other commercial businesses from removing or disabling EDRs
  • An individual MAY self-disengage a recorder.
    • HOWEVER removing or turning off the EDR could disable or compromise a vehicle’s airbag system

The progression of EDR's:

  • 1921 - Transportation Tachographs invented for heavy trucks (mechanical analog device)
  • 1953 - Flight Data Recorders introduced 
  • 1970's - used to monitor & improve airbag performance
  • 1990's - the NHTSA begins to use EDR's to conduct investigations into potential vehicle defects.

It is this initial need, associated with airbags, which catapulted the use of event data recorders by NHTS to conduct investigations into potential vehicle defects.  The history of motor vehicle event data recorders is best detailed in a  2000 study published by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.  NHTSA.  utillizing_data_from_automotive_event_data_recorders.pdf

  • Now they used for accident reconstruction   Event Data Recorder | NHTSA
    • If a driver’s seatbelt was buckled
    • Intensity an accelerator was depressed
    • Brake application before a collision
    • Vehicle's speed

      Access to data collected from private, commercial, & public vehicles:

      Regulations & Standardization of MVEDR

      • 2004 - A universal standard, similar to those in public transportation such as aircraft and trains, for MVEDR's was established by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers in 2004 with IEEE 1616. 
        • The IEEE is an International organization originating in 1884 in the United States. There are >400,000 members from 160 countries, members from the U.S. no longer are a majority.
        • A report from NHTSA released "Use of Event Data Recorder (EDR) Technology for Highway Crash
          Data Analysis"  edr_technology.pdf (
      • 2006 - Regulation 49 CFR 563 details what data must be recorded BUT DOES NOT MANDATE a vehicle to have a MVEDR
        • NHTSA requires that vehicles manufactured on or after September 1, 2010 that are voluntarily
          equipped with EDRs must record 15 data elements at a minimum in a standardized format.
          The report Table I details these elements, the minimum frequency for collecting each data element, and how long of a history the EDR must maintain for each data element. EDR_QAs_11Aug2006.pdf (
      • 2015 - Driver Privacy Act Driver Privacy Act of 2015 Addresses Privacy Concerns for Data Co (   Text - S.766 - 114th Congress (2015-2016): Driver Privacy Act of 2015 | 
      • 2021 - UN Regulation 160 was adopted by the World Forum for Harmonization of Vehicle Regulations

       Event Data Recorder | NHTSA

       In the US 49/563.5 regulatory framework, Event data recorder is defined as a "a device or function in a vehicle that records the vehicle's dynamic time-series data during the time period just prior to a crash event (e.g., vehicle speed vs. time) or during a crash event (e.g., delta-V vs. time), intended for retrieval after the crash event. For the purposes of this definition, the event data do not include audio and video data."

      EDR Failure
      "One situation where this might occur is a catastrophic loss of electrical power early in a collision event. In this situation, the power reserve in the restraint system control module capacitors may be completely spent by the deployment of the air bags, leaving insufficient power to write data to the EEPROM."  

      Similar terminology: ADR - accident data recorder (European), automotive black box (relatable to a flight black box for aviation)

      Automotive safety: Mercedes-Benz Vans leads the way (

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