Infotainment Systems: What’s in Your Car & How is it Used?

Robert S. Kinder, Jr., BSME, Automotive / Mechanical Engineer ::::
Modern vehicles in the automobile market can record a wealth of insightful data. Traditionally, forensic investigators had the ability to obtain pre-crash data from airbag control modules or otherwise known as event data recorders (EDRs). This type of data can include about 5 seconds (pre-crash) of parameters such as indicated speed, brake status, and steering input. Infotainment systems, located in the center of your vehicle’s dashboard, are among one of the newest possible data sources. It is essential to understand that infotainment data is different from pre-crash data stored by EDRs. With modern forensic tools, investigators can now access data within infotainment systems. Data stored within these systems vary from cell phone data, GPS track logs, light activations, gear shifts, and door openings/closings. Data of this kind can be useful to not only vehicle crashes, but also criminal related events such as theft. When a phone connects to an infotainment system, the car can record who and when you called or text messaged and at what time. Photos and media files originating from a cell phone can also make their way to the infotainment’s storage. Additionally, your car can store where and when you were located at a specific location and the route you took to arrive there. The data extracted from infotainment systems can be analyzed and applied in many situations to further understand how a collision or an event occurred. For example, the data may depict whether a vehicle stopped at a red light or proceeded through without reducing its speed. Infotainment data may also provide aid to establishing driver habits prior to a crash.
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Don’t Underestimate the Importance and Power of Event Data

Event Data

James R. Schmidt, Jr., BSME, Sr. Collision Reconstruction Engineer ::::
The capability of recording event data when a crash occurs is becoming more prevalent in vehicles on the road today.
Once a crash occurs, as part of the investigation process, event data should be collected from all vehicles involved that have such recording capability.
Having been collected, the data can be reviewed and analyzed by a collision reconstruction engineer, as part of his or her analysis process. And yes, you do need to be trained in order to properly interpret, analyze, and incorporate this data into a collision reconstruction.
Oftentimes, the client is interested in knowing such things as how fast a vehicle was traveling, and whether the operator applied the brakes before impact.
Take, for example, a collision involving a Ford Ranger pickup running into the rear of a motor coach. The crash took place pre-dawn, as the motor coach was starting from a stop when the traffic signal turned green. Continue reading “Don’t Underestimate the Importance and Power of Event Data”

Failure Due to Recall or Driver Error

Robert S. Kinder, JR, BSME, Mechanical Engineer ::::
Over the years, automotive electrical systems have grown steadily in function and sophistication, often replacing former mechanically-controlled systems with electronic ones. A case in point is the modern power steering system. What had long used a belt-driven pump providing hydraulic pressure to perform the work required to ease operator steering effort is now a fully electronic system. The advantage of the electronic power steering system is that, unlike its predecessor that provided power steering assist continuously whether needed or not, the electronic version provides “on-demand” assist. Vehicle speed data is particularly important to determine whether or not the electronic power steering should be active as lower speed turning requires power steering assist but higher speed maneuvers typically do not.
But, as is often true with new technology, these systems can be prone to premature failures that can lead to recalls; and as is often true, vehicle recalls can become a catalyst for a forensic automotive investigation. Such was the case in a recent investigation of a vehicle equipped with an electronic power-assisted steering system. Continue reading “Failure Due to Recall or Driver Error”

Industry Update: Heavy Vehicle Truck Data

event data recorder

Robert S. Kinder, Jr., Mechanical Engineer ::::
Event data recorders (EDR) have been a hot topic since late 2012 when the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) proposed a rule requiring EDRs in all passenger vehicles and light trucks. Although the rule does not apply to heavy trucks, many of them can store event data within the vehicle’s electronic control module (ECM). Data stored in the ECM was originally designed to optimize fuel economy, emissions control, and engine diagnostics. However, ECMs can record data that is relevant to a particular collision and useful in a situational appropriate collision reconstruction. It’s important to note that data from heavy trucks can be volatile. Continue reading “Industry Update: Heavy Vehicle Truck Data”