Driven by the lack of uniform scientific crash data needed to make vehicle and highway transportation safer and reduce fatalities, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Standards Association (IEEE-SA) has begun working to create the first universal standard for motor vehicle event data recorders (MVEDR) much like those that monitor crashes on aircraft. According to National Safety Council statistics, motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death between the ages of one and 33 in the U.S. There is a death caused by a motor vehicle crash every 12 minutes and a disabling injury every 14 seconds. These crashes, and the injuries and fatalities they cause, are the nation’s largest public health problem. Since the first road crash fatality in 1896, motor vehicles have claimed an estimated 30 million lives globally. On average, someone dies in a motor vehicle crash each minute worldwide. The IEEE standards project, IEEE P1616 “Motor Vehicle Event Data Recorders,” brings together industry and government experts to formulate a minimum performance protocol for the use of onboard tamper and crash-proof memory devices for all types and classes of highway and roadway vehicles. This international standard will help manufacturers develop devices the public commonly refers to as “black boxes” for autos, trucks, buses, ambulances, fire trucks and other vehicles. The MVEDR standard will define what data should be captured, including date, time, location, velocity, heading, number of occupants and seat belt usage. It will also define how that information should be obtained, recorded and transmitted. “The more accurate the data we gather on highway crashes, the better chance we have to reduce the devastating effects of crashes,” says Jim Hall, co-chair of the IEEE P1616 Working Group and former head of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). “That’s why it’s so important to have recorders that objectively track what goes on in vehicles before and during a crash to complement the subjective input we now get from victims, eye witnesses and police reports. The NTSB considers this so important that it features ‘automatic crash sensing and recording devices’ high on its current list of the ‘Most Wanted’ transportation safety improvements.” The IEEE P1616 project builds on more than a decade of ongoing MVEDR research and development. Major studies in this field have been or are being done by the Department of Transportation (USDOT), the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCA), the Federal Highway Works Administration (FHWA), the Transportation Research Board (TRB), the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), and many of the world’s automotive, truck and bus manufacturers. “This research has taught us to appreciate the significance of MVEDRs,” says Tom Kowalick, co-chair of the IEEE P1616 Working Group and professor at Sandhills Community College in Pinehurst, N.C. “In providing essential crash information, these devices can help accelerate the deployment of emerging safety technologies, such as collision avoidance systems, driver-assisted technologies, onboard vehicle diagnostic systems and advanced medical response capabilities. The next step is to build what we’ve learned so far into a series of global standards that fills a gap in our overall transportation system.” Kowalick notes that highway vehicles are the only major mode of transportation in the U.S., which also includes air, rail, marine and pipeline transport, without an adequate event data recorder standard. IEEE P1616 aims to rectify this. “The IEEE is the logical group to lead this effort,” says Kowalick. “Since the use of electronic components in motor vehicles has grown dramatically in the last decade, the challenge lies in integrating communication and information technology to improve transportation safety. The IEEE is well positioned to take the lead in bringing these areas together, especially through its 37 technical societies. “For instance, the IEEE Vehicular Technology Society is sponsoring the MVEDR standard and recently completed a similar effort along with other IEEE Societies for a rail event data recorder standard (IEEE Std 1482.1). The IEEE is also playing a major role in developing standards for Intelligent Transportation Systems.” IEEE P1616 has attracted interest and participation from a diverse range of public and private sector organizations and individual IEEE volunteers. These include NHTSA, TRB, FHWA, NTSB, the American Public Transportation Association, the American Automobile Association, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers (which represents 13 automakers), Transport Canada, Booz Allen Hamilton, General Motors, Honda and Visteon.