‘Black Box’ in The Woods Reveals Secret To Tiger Woods Car Crash

Investigators looking into the wounded golf legend Tiger Woods’ rollover crash would rely heavily on data stored in the Genesis SUV he was driving to find out what happened.

After more advanced recorders in aircraft, the 2021 GV80 is likely to have a newer type of event data recorders called “black boxes.” For authorities to study, they store a treasure trove of data.

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There are no U.S. laws requiring the boxes, but the government allows recorders to store 15 data points before impact, including speed, and whether brake and gas pedals have been pressed.

The regulations do not include modern partially automated systems which are capable of regulating the speed, braking and steering of motor vehicles on highways, and do not discuss the cameras and radars used in those systems. But some vehicles retain some of the data from the latest systems.

When the SUV he was driving went off a Los Angeles County road and rolled over on a downhill stretch notorious for collisions, Woods suffered a severe leg injury. When the SUV struck a raised median, went across oncoming lanes and rolled several times, the county sheriff said Woods was not intoxicated and was driving alone in good weather. His right leg was injured in the accident, needing surgery.

How much of the crash Woods remembers is not clear, but the black box data should be able to fill in gaps.

What Is a Recorder for Event Data?

It’s a computer that stores data from the sensors of a car that police officers investigating a crash can download. Usually, the boxes are under the middle of the dashboard or under seats to be shielded from damage.

Most possibly, indeed. Almost all cars have them now, the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports. 64 percent of cars had boxes, also during the 2005 model year. In 1994, General Motors installed the first recorder in a vehicle that stored minimal information, said Richard Ruth, who runs a crash analysis consultancy in Washington and trains police officers in crash reconstruction.

In the 2013 model year, federal regulation allows event data recorders to store 15 things, including speed up to five seconds before impact, whether and how often the gas pedal was pressed, whether the brakes were applied, whether the seat belt of the driver was fastened, whether the front airbags were inflated and how long it took, and the change in forwarding speed. Newer models of the boxes would store gyroscope sideways power, calculate how quickly a vehicle rolled over or whether there were antilock brakes and stability control operating.

A Genesis spokesman would not say, but Ruth said that more than the necessary data was reported by other models produced by Hyundai and associated automaker Kia. He said that there was a record steering angle before the accident, which would indicate how hard the driver attempted to prevent a crash. For example, the Kia Forte compact car records how much pressure on the brake pedal was, so investigators can see how hard a driver braked.

New vehicles such as the Genesis SUV are fitted with automatic emergency braking systems and other safety systems that can also record data from the box. But Ruth said it differs from one automaker to another, and he’s not sure how much was reported in Genesis.

Data could be stored from early cruise control system radars and cameras, and from more advanced accelerometers and gyroscopes, said Scott Martin, an assistant research engineer at the GPS and Vehicle Dynamics Laboratory of Auburn University. Before, during or after an accident, some General Motors, Subaru, and probably Toyota vehicles record photos, Ruth said.

In accident investigations and in developing databases to avoid or minimize collisions, Ruth says it would be beneficial. But because of privacy issues, Ruth also said such storage would be problematic. Cameras in certain cars, for example, now track whether the driver is paying attention to the road, but individuals may not want to retrieve that information.

Many drivers would not want the police to be able to access their speeds regularly, especially in sports cars, Ruth said.

“Customers certainly don’t want policemen or anybody else to know how fast they are going,” he said. Currently, with authorization from a car owner or by court order, the incident information recorders can only be accessed after an accident, he said.


Margaret Taylor

Experienced communications professional with 10 years of experience in international journalism.

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