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Do Tesla Vehicles Have A Black Box? How Does It Work? All About Tesla’s Event Data Recorder

In today’s world of technology, a lot of things depend on data. How you use your data is one of the most integral factors in the market right now. And the word ‘data’ is existent in all fields, not just technology. The automobile industry, in particular, has been incredibly revolutionized by the advent of data. With vehicle technology improving day-by-day and the addition of a lot of cameras and sensors, there is huge scope for data accumulation, analysis and whatnot.

Do Tesla Vehicles Have A Black Box

Do Tesla Vehicles Have A Black Box

In many countries around the world, automobile regulatory committees have made it compulsory for all vehicles to have an EDR (event data recorder). This is quite similar to the ADR (accident data recorder) and it is often referred to as a ‘black box’. The EDR device installed in some automobiles to record information related to vehicle crashes or accidents. In the USA, EDRs must meet federal standards, as described within the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations.

Now, for a company like Tesla, which relies on data so much, it is obvious that there is an EDR in the vehicles. Just yesterday, we reported a bizarre incident where an owner used the EDR report in his favour for a legal case. So let’s understand the black box that Tesla uses in its vehicles.

What is an Event Data Recorder?

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An event data recorder (EDR) is a tool that can help analyze and understand crash dynamics and improve vehicle safety. Normally, the EDR records a lot of important data over time and presents a report which includes various dynamic parameters of the vehicle with respect to time. Of course, this data is normally highly technical and you have to be experienced in the field to understand the data and deduce conclusions.

The data and its formatting normally vary across the different automobile brands. Moreover, you can find variations in the data in vehicles of the same brand, but from different production years. This data is normally divided into various sections, some of which are discussed below.

Pre-Crash Data

This section provides insight into the status of vehicle safety systems as well as vehicle speed. There is also some data available regarding throttle application, and brake-use leading up to the crash.

example of an EDR report
An example of an EDR report and its brief explanation

As you can see in the image above, the EDR provides other data such as ABS activity, stability control, traction control as well. Various sensors in the car help to collect data such as the seat position of the driver and buckling of the seatbelt.

Vehicle Forces

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The crash data also provides details about the forces acting on the vehicle in the event of a crash. The EDR normally records this data over the minutest of time intervals to help deduce conclusions better. This data includes lateral and longitudinal acceleration, yaw rate and roll rate as well. It also shows the steering wheel angle, which is a helpful parameter in vehicle dynamics calculations.

Accelerometer data also provides the change in velocity over time, which is an important parameter in understanding crash dynamics.

Tesla’s EDR Report.

As mentioned in our last article, Tesla collects a lot of data through the various sensors at different positions throughout the vehicle. The owner in question in that bizarre incident downloaded the EDR report of his car, and it was 70 pages long. Yes, that’s a staggering length for a report, but it tells you how crucial data analytics is in crash dynamics.

Interestingly enough, Tesla only records data through the EDR when it senses a non-trivial physical occurrence. So, it won’t record data under normal driving conditions. You can access the EDR data with a Windows computer, the appropriate cables and adaptors, the Tesla EDR Retrieval program and a MyTesla account. The appropriate set of cables is normally available on online stores for prices varying between $800 and $1,200.

Data Collected in the EDR Report

The EDR record the pre-crash and crash data in discrete intervals, so this data may be asynchronous. The stored data is updated locally every second, and it is periodically updated to the cloud. The EDR stores the data in the vehicle’s Restraints Control Module (RCM). Tesla also provides free, publicly available software which can access and retrieve EDR data. There is also an online service to upload your data and generate a report in PDF format.

The results of the EDR report provide a wide variety of data. The data includes graphs of different parameters plotted against time. This includes parameters such as steering wheel angle, lateral and longitudinal acceleration, roll rate as well as yaw rate. Before we go ahead with looking at the graphs of these parameters, let’s understand in brief the meaning of each one.

  1. Steering wheel angle – Position of the steering wheel with the neutral position being 0°. Normally, the sign convention is positive for clockwise and negative for anticlockwise rotation. 
  2. Lateral Acceleration – A measure of how hard the vehicle is cornering. Lateral acceleration can also be impact-induced.
  3. Longitudinal Acceleration – A measure of how hard the vehicle is accelerating or decelerating. Longitudinal acceleration can also be impact-induced.
  4. Yaw Rate – A measure of the rate at which the vehicle is changing its degree of rotation. It is important to note that this measurement is a rate.
  5. Roll Rate – A measure of the rate at which the vehicle is changing its degree of the roll. It is important to note that this measurement is a rate.

Results of EDR Report

An example of the results has been published in a case study carried out recently. The image below shows the plotted graphs of various parameters against time. It should be noted that the least count of this data is close to 0.1 of a second. That’s how minutely the data logging takes place.

Results of Tesla EDR Report

We can also view other kinds of data, such as the page shown below.

Tesla EDR Data

Our Opinion

It is interesting to see the rate at which technology is getting integrated into vehicles. With the age of technology and data upon us, no field can afford to stay away from it, and the same is the case with automobile companies as well. The EDR report is one of the most important, as it can help resolve disputes regarding accidents. All in all, the way data and technology is driving the automobile world forward is definitely making the world safer from an automobile-point-of-view.

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Mihir Tasgaonkar
A mechanical engineer who loves reading and writing about new technologies in the automobile industry.

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