Sometimes it seems like our vehicles are increasingly becoming rolling computers and entertainment systems. Telematics systems such as BMW’s ConnectedDrive, Ford’s Sync and General Motors’ OnStar can make our journeys more enjoyable and safer. However, the data collected by them can also be used in court. This in-car data can come in handy to help build a case against an at-fault driver as well as in product liability cases involving vehicle defects.
Although some consumers may express concerns about lack of privacy in the way their data is used, that privacy doesn’t extend to complying with court orders and subpoenas. Privacy agreements state that telematics data can be released to law enforcement agencies and courts. OnStar even has the ability to shut off a car’s engine if law enforcement reports it stolen.
One Florida woman found herself under arrest for drunk driving last year after her Ford Sync automatically called authorities when she was involved in an accident. She allegedly had left the scene and gone home, only to have police show up at her door because that call had come in at the same time as the victim called the police.
Of course, even though thousands of pieces of data can be collected by telematics systems, they often aren’t sufficient on their own to prove an at-fault driver guilty. Contrary to popular belief, they don’t track every movement of a vehicle unless perhaps a turn-by-turn feature is used. One prosecutor notes what he calls the “CSI effect,” where jurors who are used to seeing crimes solved neatly in an hour by experts using state-of-the-art technology, expect more than attorneys can provide.
There are other reasons why in-car data can be problematic as evidence. The chain of command of the equipment and data inside needs to be uncompromised. Further, the data isn’t always correct. Toyota has admitted, for example, that its event data recorders don’t always provide accurate information.
As described here, there are limitations of what telematics data can show, let alone prove. However, experienced Connecticut attorneys who represent plaintiffs in vehicle accident cases often find them useful as part of presenting a compelling case.
Source: Automotive News, “Lawyers reaching for in-car data,” Vince Bond, Jr., accessed April 06, 2016