The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is expected to issue new regulations next month, that will require a black box style data recorder be fitted in all new cars.

Similar in concept to the familiar black boxes used in commercial aircraft for decades, the boxes are expected to record information about speed, seat belt use and brake application in the final seconds leading up to an accident, the data can be retrieved for later analysis.

Before you start screaming about government overreach, you should know that almost every new car already has a device like this fitted at the factory. For example, GM has fitted one to almost every new car they've built since the early 1990s.

The new rules are aimed at evening out a patchwork of state laws about who can access to the data, while standardizing the devices themselves so that the data is easier to recover. Currently, the devices are used mostly be car manufacturers to cover their own butts, by helping to determine whether an accident was caused by driver error, or some problem with the vehicle.

This sounds like a sensible idea, as long as strict limits are places on what data is recorded, and who has access to it. The potential for abuse is huge, such as cops using it to issue speeding tickets, or GPS data being used in a divorce case to show who you were visiting. Still, the upside could be pretty significant too, for example proving that you weren't speeding when you had an accident.

Personally, I think I'll stick with my very analog 1985 Diesel Mercedes. The most sophisticated electronic device in that car is the AM/FM radio.