Accident investigators will soon be able to walk up to a crumpled car and download information from the crash.
"Any time you can glean information five seconds prior to an impact, for instance speed or the force of the impact, that type of information is invaluable," says accident reconstructionist trooper Mike Hartsell.
General Motorshas recorded basic data for safety research with a scaled down black box for a few years. The new version is more sophisticated.
"This black box would be designed to monitor or measure the impact on existing systems in the vehicles," says Tim Hippo with Sir Walter Chevrolet.
It records all kinds of information like the speed, whether the driver was wearing a seat belt, if the brake was used, and when the air bag deployed.
"That kind of information up to this point has been limited, and we've only been able to gather that information from the physical evidence left at the accident scene after the fact," Hartsell said.
The black boxes will also help researchers better understand how the human body tolerates car crashes.
"It will enable GM to build their vehicles safer and better, and consequently help insurance companies to define more of what happened in the event of an accident," Hippo said.
GM hopes to have the black boxes installed in all of their vehicles within the next few years.