Someday your car will give you recommendations on where to eat, suggest more efficient routes between home and work, and even monitor your health. But for now it's just keeping tabs on your driving habits, recording your behavior in case it needs to be reconstructed after an accident.
Federal officials are poised to announce next month that all cars must contain a black box, similar to that installed on airplanes, to give authorities a glimpse of your activities in the event of a car wreck. The devices could help pin down what happened in the moments before a crash, helping authorities determine who is at fault for what, and eliminating uncertainty from human witnesses.
The spongy bones and tough-as-nails beaks of woodpeckers are inspiring a new generation of shock absorbers, potentially shielding airplane black boxes, football players and other valuable materials from the forces of impact.
An airplane's flight data recorder, or black box, saves stats from many different sensors so that pilots can reconstruct and analyze a trip after the fact, whether to find problems or certify that they completed a record-setting route. Now extreme-sports athletes can quantify a wicked ride the same way. Two new gadgets each pack a heap of sensors—GPS to measure direction and speed, accelerometers to measure tilt and pitch, gyroscopes to measure rotation—to record data throughout a snowboard, wakeboard or other sports session.
Military and police higher-ups can now see just how many shots a particular weapon fired during the course of a battle or incident. The Register reports that a new black box device designed for rifles and submachine guns could report on ammo usage and weapon jamming, as well as who shot whom at what time.