Nanjing Night Net

“Black box” to provide clues to cruise control drama

Police are expected to enlist the help of software engineers from Ford to unravel why the cruise control jammed on motorist Chase Weir’s 4WD.
Nanjing Night Net

A “black box”-style data recorder could provide vital clues to a high-speed freeway drama where a Ford Explorer’s cruise control apparently refused to disengage.

Motorist Chase Weir said the cruise control on his 2002 Ford Explorer became jammed on 80km/h as he travelled along Melbourne’s Eastern Freeway on Wednesday. It took him more than 30 minutes to bring the car to a stop.

Victorian Police have indicated to Ford they may ask for assistance diagnosing the car’s motor vehicle data recorder, which can log driver inputs on the brakes, throttle position and other vital systems of the car.

“We will conduct our investigation once they have finished theirs, but we’ve also indicated we’ll provide them with all the technical assistance they need,” said Ford spokeswoman Sinead McAlary.

A “black box” may be able to give police more details about Chase Weir’s wild ride.

Data recorders are increasingly being used by crash investigators in the US to piece together the final moments before an accident in much the same way as aircraft black boxes.

Ford has fitted them to all US-made vehicles since 2002. Devices can record between 15 and 40 data elements. Some are on a continuous loop, recording data then erasing it every few seconds, while others are activated by the events preceding a crash, such as a sudden change of vehicle speed or a violent change in direction.

The devices attract their fair share of controversy, with debate about whether the information belongs to the driver or manufacturer. Police in the US are now regularly getting access to recorders via court order.

Less sophisticated recorders keep information on car speed, engine throttle position, whether the brakes were used and whether the airbags deployed.

More complex recorders include other parameters including steering inputs, lateral forces on the car, engine speed, seat position and even the size of occupants.

McAlary declined to comment on the possibility of a recall for the Explorer over yesterday’s incident.

“At this stage we don’t know what happened to the vehicle and until we know exactly what went on we can’t make any decisions. That is the responsible and methodical way to go about it,” she said.

A police spokeswoman said the car involved in Wednesday’s drama had not yet been examined, but an investigation was under way. She declined to give any further details.

“We don’t comment on the details of an investigation while it is continuing,” she said.