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Event Data Recorders: Safety and software considerations

New law set to impact automotive companies in Europe

There has been a lot of talk about Event Data Recorders (EDR) in the automotive industry lately. Event Data Recorders are tamper-proof memory devices that collect accident data on modes of transport. You might recognise EDRs as flight data recorders; they have been used in avionics for more than 50 years.  What you might now know is that in recent years they’ve also become an important part of the automotive industry. In China, for example, EDRs have been required since January 2021. What are the Event Data Recorder requirements in Europe?

Jason Dent on Unsplash

Why are we raising the topic today? There was a European Union (EU) vote in 2019 which requires EDRs in Europe. The aim of this regulation (nicely called UNECE R160) is to understand the causes of road accidents. What will the new law mean for automotive companies and their road to software-defined vehicles? That’s what we’ll explore in this blog post.

The impact of Event Data Recorders on OEMs

Original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) had 3 years to prepare for the application of the European EDR UNECE R160 regulation. The roll-out on light vehicles is from May to July 2022. What that means is that an EDR is mandatory for all newly homologated cars sold in the EU starting 1 May 2022.

Quick warning though – there has been a lot of misinterpretation surrounding the new law, by both the media and some government officials. The legislation does not apply to used vehicles; these do not require EDRs even if they are sold after July 2022.

Another aspect that is important to understand is that vehicles released before the regulation (meaning all new cars homologated before July 2022) will have to comply by May 2024 (if sold new). This has been clarified by Parliament.In other words, this regulation will apply to 100% of new cars by May 2024.

Clark Van Der Beken on Unsplash

At this point, you’re probably asking yourself: “what about heavy trucks”? Well, heavy trucks have not been forgotten. Newly homologated trucks will have to comply starting in January 2026. New truck models will also follow suit. They will have to comply as of 2029.

What does an Event Data Recorder do?

Now that we understand the implications for OEMs, let’s break down what an EDR is meant to do according to the EU’s requirements. Although most US vehicles are equipped with an EDR, a similar law is under evaluation in the US but hasn’t been formally approved by congress at the time of writing.

The EU has made it clear that no data on driving behavior nor on the driver shall be recorded on EDRs – at least in the current version of the law. This includes preventing the recording of microphone-related inputs.

Basically, the EDR records a limited amount of vehicle data for a few seconds around the event.

From the first accessible specifications, the EDR will be recording permanently and will keep a rolling 30 seconds of the data feed. According to the regulation, EDRs can keep up to 5 seconds prior to the event and until the vehicle comes to a full stop. In the end, the module will only keep a few seconds before and after the event. See the illustration below:

So what type of vehicle data will be recorded? Here’s a list of the main ones:

  • Use of brakes
  • Speed and engine throttle
  • Steering wheel movement
  • Acceleration
  • Wheel angle
  • Collision force
  • GPS coordinates for vehicle position
  • Inclination and detection if vehicle is rolling
  • eCall (Regulatory Emergency Call)
  • State of active safety (ABS, electronic stability control, etc)
  • State of passive safety
    • Airbags (warning lights, activation status)
    • Seatbelt status, pre-tensioner status (driver and front passenger) and load limiters

Who can access the data?

That’s indeed a lot of data that you don’t particularly want anyone to have access to. So who will actually be able to access it?

According to the regulation, this data cannot be used to establish accident responsibility. This implies that this data cannot be sent to insurance nor be used against drivers by the police.

Markus Winkler on Unsplash

The primary purpose of the law is to gather statistics that allow for a better understanding of accident causes. The data cannot be used to identify the driver. Moreover, it must be 100% anonymised and can only be reached by the OEM. On top of that, the EDR needs to be impossible to disable and inaccessible to the driver.

Implications for consumers 

Potentially negative implications for consumers include a higher vehicle cost. It’s estimated that such a component may have an additional cost of €100. There are also concerns in terms of usage. It’s too early to tell what the full implications will be. But we will certainly be following developments closely.

Operating system considerations for Event Data Recorders

OEMs need to choose the right operating system (OS) to support these strict EDR requirements in terms of data protection and cybersecurity. Whether the EDR system runs on a dedicated Electronic Control Unit (ECU) or an existing ECU (ie. infotainment), the OS that will be handling EDR functions will have to be securely isolated from the rest of the surrounding software components.

For example, Ubuntu Core is a lightweight operating system that enables OEMs to develop solutions for EDR-specific requirements. It offers corruption-less and Full Disk Encryption (FDE) with guaranteed confinement of data (ie. Trusted Execution Environment [TEE]).

If you’re looking for an operating system that can be used to support EDR-specific requirements, contact us to learn about our solutions. 

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