Black boxes in airplanes are instrumental in determining the cause of aircraft accidents. For this reason, they must be withstand high temperatures and extreme impact. Typically, they contain a flight data recorder and a cockpit voice recorder. After an aircraft accident, the Federal Aviation Administration collects data from the black box to help make their determination.
Beyond that, they also randomly check the boxes of many commercial aircraft to identify and correct potential issues. These could include a pilot making extreme maneuvers, or anything else that may alert them to a mechanical problem.
Black Boxes in Cars
Did you know many newer automobiles also contain black boxes? In cars, they are called data recorders, and they’ll soon become mandatory in all new cars. They are not nearly as sophisticated as the ones found in aircraft, but they can be very useful.
Many experts are pushing for “smarter” data recorders in cars, which would be of great help for organizations like the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Those in the know surmise that if some of the aircraft black box abilities can be adapted to today’s passenger cars, they could not only determine the cause of accidents, they could also prevent many of them from ever happening in the first place. With all the vehicle recalls that have taken place recently, just imagine if sophisticated data recorders had been in place for the past decade. Who knows how many of these could have been prevented?
Black Boxes Could be Used More
Currently, if there is an accident in a vehicle, some black boxes are “smart” enough to know whether the engine was running at the time of the mishap. But unless there is some specific need to determine who was at fault, the black boxes are typically never downloaded – even in cases resulting in death or injury.
It’s interesting that there is so much made of the aircraft black boxes while there’s so little fanfare for the automotive boxes – even though the number of motor vehicle fatalities was 11,000 times the number of airline passengers who perished in accidents last year.