One State's New Car-Repair Law Could Affect Everyone

Massachusetts will require automakers to share computer data on vehicles
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 5, 2020 12:08 PM CST
Another Election Result: Making It Easier to Fix Your Car
Stock photo.   (Getty/Woryauth Kamonsuwon)

(Newser) – One of the under-the-radar state ballot items in 2020 has the potential to affect everyone who owns an automobile. In Massachusetts, voters easily approved a measure that will require automakers to share computer data on vehicles with independent shops, reports Reuters. If history repeats, this could become the national norm. Coverage:

  • The law: It was known as the "right to repair" ballot question, and roughly 3 in 4 voters were in favor, reports MassLive. Starting in 2022, buyers of new cars in the state also must receive an app that collects a wide range of "telemetics data" about their vehicles from computerized sensors. That way, the owners can share the app (it doesn't currently exist) with independent mechanics instead of relying on dealerships.

  • The lobbying: This will give you a sense of how the fight played out. GM, Toyota, Ford, Nissan, and Honda were behind a $25 million lobbying campaign by the Coalition for Safe and Secure Data against the measure, reports the Drive. Meanwhile, the Right to Repair Coalition mounted an opposing campaign with a similar amount thanks to donations from the likes of AutoZone, Advance Auto Parts, and O'Reilly Auto Parts.
  • The precedent: When the state passed a different "right to repair" law in 2012—one that didn't include computerized data—it led to a nationwide "right to repair" standard, per the Drive. It's possible that could happen again now that the law has been updated to reflect how much today's vehicles rely on computers.
  • Competing quotes: "Automakers were trying to corner the market on car repairs, but the voters stopped them," says a rep for the Right to Repair Coalition, per MassLive. But the Coalition for Safe and Secure Data argues that that law "will only grant real-time, two-way access to your vehicle and increase risk."
  • Beyond cars: An analysis at Quartz suggests that the law could have ramifications outside of repair shops, bolstering efforts for legislation elsewhere on "everything from smartphones to tractors." The headline on the piece by Nicolas Rivero declares that "Americans are a step closer to enshrining the right to repair their own gadgets."
(Read more Election 2020 stories.)

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