View Full Version : "Black Box" inspection

09-22-2003, 11:59 PM
Last week I took the Miata for New Jersey state vehicle inspection (similar to MoT in the UK)....and I was sort of surprised.

In the past, New Jersey tested tailpipe emissions while the car idled in neutral.
A few years ago, our state Governor (Christie Whitman) embarked on a plan to privatize state inspection and test every car using a wheel driven dynamometer (sometimes called a "rolling road"). Emissions were tested at idle and about 35 MPH in high gear.
I think it's safe to say that this emissions-test system brought together Republicans and Democrats: we *all* thought this scheme was a disaster. It also cost NJ tapayers a fortune.
Two of my other cars were tested using this method recently, and both eventually passed after several annoying return visits.

When I took the Miata in, I figured it would get the "dyno-test" also. Instead, the inspection guy raised the hood ("bonnet" to you Brits) on the car and plugged a cable into the ALDL port (the diagnostic connector). After a few moments, the unit recorded a "PASS" and I was good-to-go (after they checked lights, brakes, front-end and a few other items). Evidently, the internal computer records emissions problems well enough to satisfy our state inspection. All NJ vehicles starting with 2000 model year will get this form of emissions test.
Eventually, as pre-2000 cars become rarer, those expensive dynos will be phased out, replaced by querying the "Black Box".

Personally, I have no problem with a formal state inspection (our's is every two years). If it keeps the death-traps and gross polluters off the road, I'm all for it.
But the use of the Black Box surprised me. I wonder what they'll do to test the Miata in 25 years?

Interestingly, these "Black Boxes" can have other implications. Congressman Bill Janklow was recently charged with blowing through a Stop sign and running over a motorcyclist with his Cadillac (the biker died). The car's Black Box was used as evidence against Janklow (it recorded his speed at the time of the accident....over 70 MPH).

Note: New Jersey continues to have two types of "Historic License plates", for car owners wishing to avoid emissions testing (and willing to limit yearly driving mileage). Cars must be at least 25 years old. My Sprite is registered this way.

[ 09-22-2003: Message edited by: aeronca65t ]</p>

09-23-2003, 10:34 AM

Don't you mean historic plates are for those willing to unhook their speedo cables most of the year rather then limit thier driving?

Cheers, graemlins/thirsty.gif graemlins/driving.gif

tony barnhill
09-23-2003, 10:39 AM
graemlins/iagree.gif &, not sure I'm 100% behind vehicle inspections...seems they only put $$$'s in the states' coffers...we don't have them in Alabama but in states where I've lived, they were a joke...I remember my Renault Fuego Turbo that was one of the cars used for magazine testing; Renault had made some serious mods to the car to ensure praise from the test drivers - however, it wouldn't pass emissions controls so the dealer always 'detuned' it enough for me to pass & then 'retuned' it immediately afterwards!

09-23-2003, 11:23 AM
Shhhh! Guys, lets not let out our dirty little secrets about post-emission test "re-tuning" and "acidentally" disconnected speedo-cables!

Actually, Connecticut has unlimited mileage for Historic plates, but most insurance companies set a limit of 2500 miles per year anyway.

I agree that state inspection can be a joke (I'd bet that most of us at BCF take reasonable care of our cars and probably don't need it). But in the rural area I live in, I've seen some real "bombs".....doors closed with a rope, bumpers dragging, windshield smashed beyond belief, etc.. A lot of these bombs get overlooked if they're driven locally (because the driver's are often "locals", and they know the local police), but eventually, state inspection gets them off the road (and into the demoliton derby, where they belong!)

09-23-2003, 09:35 PM
I wouldn't mind having a vehicle safety inspection here in Calif. We have to smog test to get registration, but even if your tires will only temporarily hold air, "Happy motoring!"

(could at least have the Boy Scouts inspect the knots in the bumper "brackets") graemlins/iagree.gif

09-25-2003, 08:08 AM
This was in today's NY Times....it kind of relates to the "big-brother" aspect of these black-boxes that I've been wondering about (Sorry...it's fairly long):

WASHINGTON, Sept. 22 California today adopted the nation's first law meant to protect the privacy of drivers whose cars are equipped with "black boxes," or data recorders that can be used to gather vital information on how a vehicle is being driven in the last seconds before a crash.

Gov. Gray Davis signed the law, which takes effect on July 1, requiring carmakers to disclose the existence of such devices and forbidding access to the data without either a court order or the owner's permission, unless it is for a safety study in which the information cannot be traced back to the car.

More than 25 million cars and trucks have the boxes that measure speed, air-bag deployment and the use of brakes, seat belts and turn signals. But California's privacy law is the first of its kind, says Thomas M. Kowalick, co-chairman of a committee convened by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers to set standards for the boxes. Most of the recorders are on General Motors vehicles, but Ford and others have deployed some. Other manufacturers have plans to do the same.

The police in South Dakota sought information from such a recorder to determine whether Bill Janklow, a member of the House of Representatives and a former governor of the state, had run a stop sign and was speeding on Aug. 16 when he hit and killed a motorcycle rider near Flandreau. But Maj. James Carpenter of the South Dakota Highway Patrol said that because the car was not a recent model it was a 1995 Cadillac it had limited information.

The California bill was introduced by Tim Leslie, a Republican assemblyman, who contended that the devices were installed without the owner's knowledge or consent and that the information they gathered should be subject to the same legal protections as provided by the Fourth Amendment for other kinds of private information. He compared it to the process for getting permission to tap a telephone.

Mr. Leslie's legislative director, Kevin O'Neill, said in a telephone interview that in the case of a crash that resulted in civil litigation or criminal prosecution, the data would be obtainable by court order. But the information should be protected by a process, Mr. O'Neill said.

09-25-2003, 08:23 PM
Just one more reason to rebuild what ya got


09-26-2003, 10:33 PM
My 01 Ford went on the dyno at NJ inspection this year. Maybe not ALL 2000s and up have these black boxes.
As for NJ inspections, I have 3 LBCs registered historic and one PIECES, my RH drive Sprite is registered normally and has to get inspected every 2 years. Last time they failed me because my left side mirror was missing. I told him the car is RIGHT hand drive, he quoted NJ law requiring 1 outside mirror on the LEFT side of the car. I had one on the right side, the drivers side!