Vehicle black boxes at issue in new bill

SAN DIEGO - Did you know your car likely has a black box, similar to the ones that collect vital information on airplanes?

For years, car makers have been using this information and sharing it with others. Now, there is a movement among San Diegans to create a law that gives car owners certain rights. Some of the more sophisticated boxes can gather information including speed, how many people are in your car and even what songs you are listening too.

Recently introduced state Senate Bill 994 would allow car owners to see their own information and decide who else has access to it. The bill, introduced in February by state Sen. Bill Monning (D-Carmel), has support from many business owners and community leaders.

“Right now, consumers, while they can control information on their computers and mobile phones, they don't really have the same benefit with their cars,” said Jeffrey Spring, president of the Automobile Club of Southern California.

Spring wants state lawmakers to establish some rights and protections for car owners regarding the information contained and generated by their own cars.

Auto repair shop owners say carmakers have created an unfair monopoly by closely guarding this information. John Eppstein, owner John’s Automotive Care in Mission Gorge, showed 10News a generic scan tool that mechanics hook up to cars to diagnose problems.

Eppstein said the problem lies in the fact that every carmaker has its own more advanced scan tool that can gather far more detailed information. Mechanics feel this puts mom and pop auto repair shops at a major disadvantage and drives business back to the dealerships.

According to Eppstein, when you sign a car lease or sale agreement, in the fine print, you are actually waiving your rights to control most of the information generated by your own car.

“Why, to what end?" asked San Diego resident Kristy Jellison. "Why would you have to know that information? Is it monitoring whether your hands are on the wheel too?”

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