Is there a black box for cars

Airbags: The hidden black box in the car

The storage of accident data in the airbag control unit is not a novelty, but hardly any customer knows about it. The situation is different in the USA: Here the legislator prescribes exactly which data the manufacturer must save in the event of an accident in the car. This includes, on the one hand, data about the actual accident, such as the accelerations that occurred or the times when which airbag was triggered. On the other hand, the manufacturer must also record so-called "pre-crash" data: For example, the vehicle speed or the activities of the accelerator and brake pedals immediately before the collision.

Data as evidence

The vehicle manufacturers can use this data as proof that their systems have worked properly. The data can also provide information on how the accident happened. The pre-crash data is of particular importance. Finally, you provide information on how fast the vehicle was actually traveling shortly before the accident.

But how is it in Germany? Which accident data are actually saved in German vehicles and to what extent can they be read out? To answer that, we obtained and examined four airbag control units from Audi, BMW, Mercedes and VW accident vehicles.

It is reasonable to assume that the data are in principle also available in non-US vehicles. Our tests confirmed this: All data that conforms to the US specifications could be read from the Mercedes control unit - i.e. measured values ‚Äč‚Äčabout the actual accident as well as the pre-crash data. With the other control units, we were able to access some data - with one exception.

During our investigations it was also found that the data is not necessarily stored in a tamper-proof manner. Access to the flash memory is not restricted so that the data can be manipulated with the necessary knowledge.

In our random sample, the information we read out allowed detailed conclusions to be drawn about the course of the accident in at least one case. There should therefore be clear rules as to which data the control units record, who can read them and what can be done with them. Above all, the car owners should be informed about the black boxes of their cars.

The full article can be found in c't 22/2018:


Read comments (194) Go to homepage
Ad ad