Remember this guy's name -- Scott Weires -- because I think he's a new American hero.
Weires, an attorney who lives in Florida, is apparently something of a car nut and, like most of his peers, he fell in love with the new 2009 Nissan GT-R. Enough in love that he ordered one.
In case you haven't heard about the GT-R, it is basically an ICBM tipped over on its side. It's just an absolute screamer of a car -- 480 HP, 0-60 in a reported 3.2 seconds -- and even at the $82,000 Weires paid for his Super Silver version (Nissan just bumped up the price by seven grand), it is still one of the world's best automobile performance buys.
So you can understand why Weires wanted one of these Ultimate Rice Rockets and plunked down the money in advance.
And then something amazing happened: Suddenly, after years of dreaming about the car after he first saw the concept design, and after months of waiting in line, Weires suddenly canceled his order.
Why? Because he found out that the GT-R is going to have tucked away deep inside and attached to its chassis a black box similar to the ones we always hear about after airplane crashes. Yeah, that's right: an electronic data recorder (EDR) that keeps track of everything from air-bag sensors to throttle controls to engine performance gauges.
Worse, at least to Weires, was that the GT-R contained an even more sophisticated version of EDR called a "Vehicle Status Data Recorder" (VSDR) -- this little baby not only activates when a crash is imminent, but runs all the time.
Think about that for a moment, and then think about your driving history.
Dude, I live in Silicon Valley, the land of the California Rolling Stop, the ignored speed limit signs and the place where the Rice Rocket was invented. And, in this land of automotive scofflaws, I am the guy who a friend once described as "driving like I just robbed a bank."
I have done things with cars that make me burst into sweat just recalling them. And if you are a red-blooded American male -- or, from what I've seen lately, an American teenage girl -- your driving history is probably very similar to mine. And you can understand why a sports car enthusiast and lawyer like Weires might object to having a driving behavior monitor strapped beneath his seat.
The automobile makers tell us not to worry, that these devices are only there to identify design weaknesses in the car so that those problems can be improved in future models. According to AutoWeek magazine, Nissan says that the VSDR in the GT-R does not record sounds or images but "always records and stores vehicle-operating data between periodic inspections, which can assist and be used for servicing, diagnosing and performing warranty repairs."
It was that last part that made Weires jumpy -- and understandably so, once you picture the scenario where the Nissan dealership refuses to honor the warranty on your engine because you over-revved it twice last Thursday.
But I think there's a lot more to worry about. Right now, carmakers also see EDRs and VSDRs as a way to protect themselves in product safety lawsuits. And law enforcement folks understandably like the idea of showing up at an accident scene, plugging in their laptop and downloading information on the final moments before the crash: Did the driver brake? Veer? Why did the side air bags not open? Etc.