R. Scott King, BSME, Principal Automotive/Mechanical Engineer
Event data recorders (EDRs) in passenger vehicles and commercial trucks have been in use for nearly 20 years. During that time, they have helped answer many questions regarding how those vehicles have been operated, and performed, in the moments preceding crashes and other recordable events. Indeed, passenger vehicle EDRs have become so prevalent they have even become subject to federal regulations. And now, implantation of that technology has begun to spread to the recreational vehicle segment.
A recent investigation involving a popular inverted, three-wheeled motorcycle revealed it was equipped with a data recorder capable of recording parameters such as speed, brake, and accelerator control for approximately 60 seconds preceding engine shutdown. In that case, the engine stopped running as a result of the crash, thus relevant data was recorded. The data was retrieved using the manufacturer’s proprietary software and the analysis thereof provided important information regarding the circumstances of the incident. Using what was learned in that investigation, researchers looked beyond the subject vehicle to determine whether its manufacturer had deployed this or similar technology in other vehicles. The findings were surprising.
In addition to the aforementioned motorcycles, researchers found that this particular manufacturer was using the same data recording technology in its popular off-road, four-wheeled vehicle; in its snowmobiles; and in its personal watercraft. Yes, even certain so-called “jet-skis” or “wave-runners” are capable of recording electronic data.
Whether and how data from these recreational vehicles could benefit a forensic investigation depends on a variety of factors including the incident circumstances and the information being sought; however, engineers and investigators knowledgeable with this unique data source should be able to help make that determination.
R. Scott King, BSME, Principal Automotive/Mechanical Engineer with DJS Associates, Inc., can be reached via email at experts@forensicDJS.com or via phone at 215-659-2010.