States Begin Dealing With Driving Data, Right-to-Repair Laws

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
states begin dealing with driving data right to repair laws

In reading this website, you’ve no doubt come across paranoid rants about automotive companies vacuuming up your personal data as connected cars become the norm — often written by yours truly. Frequently bleak, they address a multitude of concerns we believe will only get worse before they can get better.

A large part of that has to do with automakers seeing the potential of leveraging customer data, like so many tech companies have before them. But elected (and unelected) officials also seem to have a loose grasp of the technology and its potential ramifications. When the Department of Transportation initially approved self-driving vehicles for public testing, the guidelines were loose and largely dependent upon self-reporting — few wanted to stand in the way of developing systems that might someday save lives.

However, manufacturers are now beginning to issue over-the-air updates, perpetual internet connectivity, gamification, and in-car marketplaces (complete with advertisements). While the new technology has opened up new doors for customer experiences and corporate revenue, it’s accelerating at a pace that’s difficult to track. As a result, lawmakers in Massachusetts and California are starting to get antsy. The former hopes to address how data will be handled in accordance with the state’s right-to-repair laws. The latter is more directly concerned with privacy.

Let’s start with Massachusetts.

The state’s right-to-repair law, enacted in 2013, stipulates that vehicle owners and independent repair facilities have access to the same diagnostic and repair information that automakers make available to certified service centers. According to Automotive News, groups representing the aftermarket industry have been lobbying for an amendment that would give them the same level of access.

Bill Hanvey, president of the Auto Care Association, claims existing laws don’t provide sufficient access to telematics data that aftermarket providers insist they need to make proper and safe repairs to modern vehicles. They want the law changed to include a provision that would give independent providers the ability to sue manufacturers for failing to provide “information, including documentation, updates to firmware, safety and security corrections, diagnostics … or a tool required.”

It should be said that this is part of a much larger fracas between automakers and independent repair/aftermarket shops. With all the high-tech safety equipment found in modern vehicles, several automakers claim aftermarket shops cannot adequately ensure safety. A few have gone so far as to suggest they’ll void the warranty of any owner who decides to have their advanced driving aids (or related equipment) fixed/modified by anyone other than them. Aftermarket group are growing concerned that this could spill over into the rest of the car; they’ve asked the Federal Trade Commission and various states (including Massachusetts) to intervene.

“The auto industry is creating the false narrative that you can either have safety or you can have repairability,” said Paul McCarthy, president of the Motor and Equipment Manufacturers Association of independent suppliers.

Moving on to privacy, California passed a law mandating that all businesses disclose data collection and sharing practices to consumers in 2018. However, the rules for how it will be enforced aren’t due until 2020. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra is currently working on fine tuning the plan.

“Consumers have a right to request that their data be deleted. Consumers have a right to opt out of the sale or sharing of their personal information. And businesses are prohibited from selling personal information of consumers under the age of 16 without explicit consent,” Becerra’s office said in a statement.

From Automotive News:

The California State Legislature has approved amendments to the law that affect automakers and dealers. The key change permits automakers and dealers to keep and share vehicle data exclusively for purposes of a warranty or recall-related repair — even if a consumer has asked for the data’s deletion — as long as the data isn’t sold against the consumer’s wishes.

Brian Maas, president of the California New Car Dealers Association, says the association “fought hard” to secure the enactment of the warranty exception.

“Protecting consumer data, while simultaneously ensuring warranty and recall-related vehicle information can be shared between dealers and OEMs, is vital to protecting vehicle safety,” Maas told Automotive News.

While we don’t necessarily agree with the death grip automakers want to place on their products, we do see where they’re coming from. There’s a lot of money at stake, especially in regard to data acquisition and those pricey, semi-autonomous features that will someday require replacement. Manufactures also don’t want to be liable for any safety issues — and several advanced driving aids have already proven to be somewhere between dangerously unreliable and somewhat persnickety. Introducing independent repair/aftermarket players only adds uncertainty while costing OEMs money.

We’d like to see more choices for consumers and some transparency within the industry. But it’s early days for both Massachusetts and California, never mind the rest of America. The Golden State could easily pervert its new data laws before 2020 and Massachusetts could struggle to get its right-to-repair amendment passed. Even if it does go through, we’ve still got questions about whether it’s a good idea to share data with more companies just so automakers don’t have a stranglehold on the aftermarket. That endless flow of information to parties known and unknown is kind of how we got here in the first place.

[Image: CAT SCAPE/Shutterstock]

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  • PJmacgee PJmacgee on Nov 06, 2019

    Look what Amazon does with the Kindle - you can buy a cheaper version "with special offers" (aka targeted advertising), or a slightly more expensive option that's normal. I might pay slightly more for a non-spying data-pimping car, if given the option.

  • Pwrwrench Pwrwrench on Nov 06, 2019

    "if given the option." That option is unlikely to be available at any price.

  • Alan I do believe that traffic infringements penalties based on income will affect those who are financial able to flout safety regulations.When I drive above the posted speed limit I assess my situation using probability. If I'm confronted with a situation where time is of more value to me than speed I will speed if I assess the probability of a fine to be quite low. I can afford the fine, what I can't afford is the loss of points on my drivers licence.In Australia (12 points in QLD and all States have a point system) we have a points system attached to your drivers licence. An open drivers licence is granted 12 points every 3 years. So, if you receive an infringement for exceeding the speed limit it takes 3 years for the points to be removed. I generally get caught once every 2 years.I think a points system would be a fairer system over a system based on income. Its about retaining your licence and safety, not financial gain by the government.As you can see below it wouldn't take long for many US drivers to lose their drivers licence.[h2]Current penalties for individuals caught speeding[/h2]InfringementPenalty amountDemerit pointsLess than 11km/h over the speed limit$287. 1 pointAt least 11km/h but not more than 20km/h over the speed limit$431. 3 pointsMore than 20km/h but not more than 30km/h over the speed limit$646. 4 pointsMore than 30km/h but not more than 40km/h over the speed limit$1,078. 6 pointsMore than 40km/h over the speed limit$1,653. 8 points and 6 month suspension
  • Wjtinfwb Instead of raising fines, why don't the authorities enforce the laws and write tickets, and have judges enforce the penalty or sentence of a crime. I live across the street from an Elementary School on a 4-lane divided state highway. every morning the cop sits in his car and when someone sails through the School Zone well above the 10 mph limit, he merely hits his siren to get their attention but that's it. I've never, in 5 years, seen them get out of the car and actually stop and driver and confront them about speeding. As a result, no one pays attention and when the School Zone light is not lit, traffic flies by at 50-60 mph in the 45 zone. Almost no enforcement occurs until the inevitable crash, last year some zoned out girl rolled her beater Elantra 3 times. On a dry, straight, 4 lane road with a 45 mph limit. I'm no Angel and have a heavy foot myself. I've received my share of speeding tickets, lots of them when younger. Traffic enforcement in most locales has become a joke these days, jacking prices because someone has a higher income in as asinine as our stupid tax policy and non-existent immigration enforcement.
  • Jeff S If AM went away I would listen to FM but since it is insignificant in the cost to the car and in an emergency broadcast it is good to have. I agree with some of the others its another way to collect money with a subscription. AM is most likely to go away in the future but I will use AM as long as its around.
  • BEPLA I think it's cool the way it is.If I had the money, time and space - I'd buy it, clean it up, and just do enough to get it running properly.Then take it to Cars and Coffee and park it next to all the newer Mustangs.
  • Dave M. I suppose Jethro’s farm report comes via AM, but there’s a ton of alternative ways to get that info. Move forward people. Progress is never easy.