A little-publicized privacy bill signed into law Monday aims to protect California motorists from a little-known device dubbed the "black box" that records data on how a vehicle was being driven just before an accident.
The legislation, the first of its kind in the nation, prevents the recorded data from being obtained by police or others without the vehicle owner's consent or a court order -- except in cases of safety research in which the owner's identity is protected.
The law, which takes effect July 1, 2004, also requires automakers to disclose the presence of the devices in the owner's manual.
"Most people don't even know these devices exist," said Kevin O'Neill, legislative director for Assemblyman Tim Leslie, R-Tahoe City, author of the bill. "That was why we did this bill."