Vehicle forensics, like other types of investigative forensics, involves a process of recovering and analyzing records to find answers that may not be readily available. This process is applied similarly to a vehicle, making vehicle forensics an extremely valuable method of obtaining information about the owner’s activity.
The black box is one of the few items in a vehicle that contains valuable information. It controls all operational aspects of the vehicle, and all control of these features goes through the electronic control unit (ECM) within the black box. This unit may even record how hard the brakes were pressed, the throttle position, and indications for airbags or antilock brakes. The black box provides a good history of the vehicle and its operation. In some cases, it may also be connected to GPS, allowing us to know when and where specific events occurred.
Another related system is the infotainment system, sometimes connected to the GPS, which contains valuable information such as Bluetooth cell phone connections, app connections, text messages, emails, and phone calls of the operators or owners. Another system is the key fob, which is now highly advanced. Key fobs can open doors, turn on lights, and even start the car remotely. Many key fobs also collect information and have records.
The eCall unit is another segment of the car that serves as an emergency system, which automatically dials 911 if the vehicle is involved in an accident or collision. It also records essential information such as the car’s GPS coordinates, the direction of travel, the VIN, and whether or not the seat belts were fastened.
Furthermore, vehicles may have dashboard cameras that collect information, including GPS location, lights, the horn, and whether doors were locked or opened. This information can help determine the activities and location of a subject. For instance, in a divorce case last year, the subject claimed to have been alone, but when they stopped at a restaurant, the infotainment system showed that the passenger door had been opened. There is also a sensor on the seat to detect if someone is sitting on it so that the airbag will activate on that side. In this case, it was proven that someone weighing more than 60 pounds was sitting on the seat, and the door had been opened, proving that the subject was not alone.
Vehicle forensics is a valuable tool for obtaining information about a vehicle’s history and can be helpful in legal proceedings. If you have access to a vehicle during an investigation, you may find valuable information about the subject contained within the vehicle or its electronic devices.