EDRs, or electronic data recorders, are now standard features in all new cars. So what exactly do these devices do?
In many ways, they are like the "black boxes" found on airplanes - although they do not record voices or conversations. Instead, these devices record the car's telemetry - things like when the gas pedal is pressed, how fast a car is going, whether or not the brakes were applied and other metrics. The devices even record things like check engine lights and other safety warnings - so if you skipped that recommended auto maintenance and it later ended up contributing to a crash, the box will know.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recently compelled all automakers to install these devices on their vehicles, and they also provided a list of specific information that they want recorded. The government agency believes that the data can be used in the event of a crash to help reconstruct what happen. Over time, that data may also be able to help automakers design safety systems that are tailored to a driver's habits.
There is also some controversy over the device's use, reports Fox Business. Currently, owners must give their consent for EDR data to be used. However, some fear that it could eventually be used against drivers in things like insurance claims.