The U.S. Transportation Department said today it will propose making vehicle "black boxes" mandatory in all vehicles by the end of the year.
The department's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has long considered whether to make black boxes, officially called event data recorders, or EDRs, mandatory. They collect data about the seconds leading up to a crash and can help investigators determine the cause.
Last year, Congress considered requiring EDRs in all vehicles. NHTSA Administrator David Strickland told Congress the agency was studying the issue.
The plan was included in a 197-page Transportation Department regulatory reform proposal released by the White House this morning.
"NHTSA plans to propose mandatory EDRs in all passenger vehicles in 2011," the Transportation Department said in the report.
In a separate agency document posted on its website, NHTSA said it is also working on a proposal "for future enhancements to (EDRs) capabilities and applicability."
But the agency said it hasn't decided whether to require EDRs in heavy-duty vehicles.
Most automobiles already have the devices. NHTSA estimated that about 64 percent of 2005 model passenger vehicles had the devices. Many major automakers already include them all vehicles, including General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co., Toyota Motor Corp. and Mazda Motor Co.
In August 2006, NHTSA issued a rule setting standards for EDR data collection.
The rule, which takes effect in the 2013 modelyear, standardizes the information EDRs collect and makes retrieving the data easier. Devices must record 15 data elements, including vehicle deceleration, in specific formats.
Different automakers collect different data. In 2009, not all Toyota EDRs recorded both pre- and post-crash data. By the end of last year, all Toyota and Lexus vehicles included EDRs that can record both.
In May 2010, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, the trade association GM, Ford, Chrysler Group LLC, Toyota and eight other automakers, endorsed making EDRs mandatory in all vehicles, but expressed concerns that some in Congress wanted more elaborate and expensive ones than are available.
The devices have been in use for about 20 years.
GM began widely installing the predecessor version of today's event data recorders in vehicles in the 1990 model year, and they became standard equipment in light duty vehicles in the 1995 model year.