How Electrification of Vehicles is Evolving Forensic Investigations

Event Data Recorders

Robert S. Kinder, Jr., MS, Senior Mechanical Engineer
Every traffic collision involves one or more of the three main factors: the roadway, the vehicle, the driver. Focusing on the vehicle, safe operation is contingent upon its control systems including the braking, propulsion, and steering. Although a failure in one of those systems is not the most common cause for a loss of control, it does happen. When investigating a failure allegation, the electronic event data does not always reveal the true cause for the loss of control. Continue reading “How Electrification of Vehicles is Evolving Forensic Investigations”

Who Damaged My Car? Ask the Infotainment System.

Infotainment Expert Witness

Robert S. Kinder, Jr., MS, Mechanical Engineer
Although cars do not currently answer our questions in the same manner as Michael Knight’s vehicle, KITT, in the Knight Rider series, cars have been “speaking” to us through electronic data for over two decades. The data answers questions about the moments leading up to a collision, including how fast the vehicle was traveling or if an occupant’s seatbelt was buckled. Such information is extracted from, what is commonly referred to as, an Event Data Recorder (EDR). While EDR information can be helpful, the ever-increasing complexity of newer vehicles allows for an enhanced data set, providing insight to more than just the moments leading up to a collision. Modern vehicles contain over 70 computer systems, creating what seems to be a consistently expanding flow of data. Given the vast collection of computers exchanging data in the vehicle network, it should come as no surprise that some of the components, such as the infotainment and telematic systems, retain a wealth of data. Continue reading “Who Damaged My Car? Ask the Infotainment System.”

Phone Data and Infotainment

Infotainment Expert Witness

Robert S. Kinder Jr., MS, Mechanical Engineer ::::
Even though cell phones are physically small, their data storage capacity is quite large. The infotainment system storage capacity in newer cars is also large and includes data from cell phones if it has been connected via Bluetooth or USB. An infotainment system refers to a vehicle system that provides entertainment and information to the end user. The systems include audio and video interfaces, touchscreens, and other features to enhance the user experience. Most newer vehicles are equipped with an infotainment system that assists users with various tasks such as hands-free calling and a rear-facing camera for reversing. Continue reading “Phone Data and Infotainment”

Side-by-Side (SSV) & Watercraft Electronic Event Data

watercraft-event-data-recorder

Robert S. Kinder, Jr., MS, Mechanical Engineer ::::
Over time the number of electronic devices and features in motorized vehicles has generally increased, some of which can record diagnostic or personal information. Most automobiles manufactured today are equipped with (EDR) capable of storing retrievable data including vehicle speed, braking, and other parameters. More recently, cars are not the only vehicles storing data. Newer Side-by-Side (SSV) off-road vehicles and watercrafts have Engine Control Modules (ECM). These electronic devices are responsible for keeping the engine running smoothly. To complete that task, the devices monitor data from various sensors and systems. When a problem is identified, the ECM can log diagnostic fault codes. In addition to fault codes, some ECMs can record up to 60 seconds of data including vehicle speeds. Using diagnostic tools, ECM data can be retrieved to provide insight as to how fast a watercraft or SSV was traveling during the last approximate one minute of usage or its past and current diagnostic condition. Continue reading “Side-by-Side (SSV) & Watercraft Electronic Event Data”

New Ruling on Cell Phone Data Privacy… What if Your Car Has Similar Data?

cell phone technology ruling

Robert S. Kinder, Jr., MS, Mechanical Engineer ::::
In the current digital era, privacy is becoming more of a concern especially since the advent of smartphones. Cell phone capabilities are increasing and so is the availability of recoverable data. When a cell phone is used to make calls or send text messages, it must communicate with nearby cell towers. As the data transmits, a trail of breadcrumbs is left behind potentially providing a means of determining location during the time a call or text was initiated. On June 22, 2018 the Supreme Court said that the government generally needs a warrant to obtain cell phone location data. What if your car has the ability to record location and cell phone data? Continue reading “New Ruling on Cell Phone Data Privacy… What if Your Car Has Similar Data?”

Lane Change & Crash: Who, When, Where?

mechanical-expert-witness-roadway-lanes

Robert S. Kinder, Jr., MS, Mechanical Engineer ::::
The driver of a Jeep SUV stated they were approaching a four-way intersection when a GMC pickup truck changed lanes and entered their path of travel, requiring the driver to steer right to avoid impacting the GMC. The Jeep then crashed into a guiderail on the right corner of the intersection. Moments prior to the incident, the Jeep and GMC vehicles were on the westbound side of the roadway in different lanes. There were three lanes in the westbound direction including a left turn only, a center, and a right lane.
An investigation revealed that the GMC was stopped for a period in the left turn only lane and then executed a right turn into the Jeep’s path of travel (center lane). As part of the investigation, data was obtained from the Event Data Recorders (EDR) in the vehicles. Using the physical evidence found at the collision site and the EDR data obtained from the vehicles, the collision sequence was reconstructed. The Jeep was operating within the posted speed limit when the event data indicated that the brakes were applied with rightward steering input consistent with the driver’s testimony. Applying the laws of physics to the available data confirmed that with full braking the Jeep did not have sufficient distance to fully stop before impacting the guiderail. The investigation also revealed that the Jeep did not have sufficient time or roadway to avoid a collision with both the GMC and the guiderail. The Jeep collided with a fixed object; however, the insurance carrier declared that the Jeep driver was not at fault. Below is a portion of the Jeep’s event data including some of the parameters recorded by the EDR and utilized to reconstruct the moments just prior to the crash.
Event Data Recorder

 

Robert S. Kinder, Jr., MS, is a Mechanical Engineer with DJS Associates, can be reached via email at experts@forensicDJS.com or via phone at 215-659-2010.

Electronic Data: Driver Habits and Data Utilization

Event Data

Robert S. Kinder Jr., BSME, Mechanical Engineer ::::
During an investigation, electronic data is extracted from vehicles to help determine what occurred in the moments leading up to an incident. Crash data is typically obtained from event data recorders (EDRs) showing speed, braking, and driver input that transpired about five seconds before an impact. There are other electronic data sources capable of providing data over larger time spans than the typical five seconds from EDRs. Infotainment/telematic systems are considered one of those sources. The data extracted from these systems are more historical regarding both the actual date and the time span associated. For example, infotainment systems have proven to store GPS track logs, coordinates, and speeds that are over a year old and span for much longer than five seconds. Continue reading “Electronic Data: Driver Habits and Data Utilization”

Automotive Infotainment & Telematics: What’s Their Purpose & How do They Differ?

Telematics

Robert S. Kinder, Jr., BSME, Automotive / Mechanical Engineer ::::
In the automotive industry, vehicle technology continues to advance to satisfy consumer driven functions. Whether the expectation is increased safety, comfort, or options, in-car technology demands are on the rise. One of the measures taken by automakers to mitigate these demands is the implementation of state-of-the-art infotainment or telematics systems. Although there is some overlap between these two systems, such as sharing the same visual display monitor, there are functional differences. The basis of infotainment involves the combination of entertainment and information, which may be obvious given the name “infotainment”. Common infotainment functions include GPS navigation, listening to music, and Bluetooth phone operations. More recently, infotainment systems have gained the ability to store cell phone related data when tethered by USB or Bluetooth. Infotainment systems also allow drivers to link their phones through integration software such as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Vehicle telematics merge telecommunication and informatic functions. When comparing telematics and infotainment, the most notable difference is that telematics utilize two-way communication. The communication provides a platform to send and receive data. The exchange of data is necessary for features like vehicle location for navigation, collision reporting for police or insurance providers, and remote vehicle diagnostics. Telematic systems can be built-in (onboard) or aftermarket. Built-in or OEM telematics are commonly subscription based such as OnStar by GM. Companies are beginning to use aftermarket plug-in telematics to track their vehicles and how or where they are driven. The devices are plugged into and powered by the diagnostic port usually located in the driver’s footwell area. Insurance companies offer similar devices to track driver behavior to possibly yield a discount on premiums.
Regardless of the type of system, infotainment or telematic, accessible data is potentially stored in the vehicle or in a cloud. The data is not only obtained for insurance discounts or safety related purposes, but also for incident related situations being investigated at a forensic capacity.

For additional information on Infotainment & Telematics, or to arrange a presentation, contact Robert S. Kinder, Jr., BSME, Automotive / Mechanical Engineer with DJS Associates, at experts@forensicDJS.com or via phone at 215-659-2010.

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.
Continue reading “Infotainment Systems: What’s in Your Car & How is it Used?”