According to several sources, Toyota is bringing hundreds of data-decoding machines to the United States in an effort to help diagnose vehicle problems. The troubled automotive giant is reacting to criticism that data from its event data recorders (or black boxes, as they are informally called) can only be read by a proprietary machine. Toyota currently has only one such reader machine in the U.S.
“The devices, known as event data recorders, are similar to the black boxes on airliners and record information such as vehicle and engine speed in the seconds before a crash,” explains AutoWeek. The boxes are able to record data from the last few seconds before a crash (such as a car’s speed) and can help diagnose the causes of the unintended acceleration accidents that are the subject of Toyota’s recent recalls.
The new data readers will allow law enforcement agencies and eventually Toyota owners to gain access to crash data. Yoshimi Inaba, head of Toyota's North American operations, has stated that the machines will be in the U.S. by the end of April – and will be commercially available by 2011. AutoWeek notes that this is a year prior to a federal deadline requiring that data from the boxes can be downloaded and read by car owners.
The boxes sound promising, but we still don’t know much about them. “For instance, how much data is recorded by the box, and for how long?” asks Autoblog. “Even if it's found that a car was operating at or near full throttle, will there be a way to know whether that was the operator's fault or a failure of the car? Regardless, having the ability to read whatever data is available sounds like a major step in the right direction.”
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