By on July 1, 2020

When it comes to activism, it’s best to choose your battles carefully. Fortunately, there aren’t too many causes within the auto industry and most are easy to get behind.

Even though environmental activists sometimes find themselves at odds with reality, their hearts are usually the right place, and they’ve encouraged automakers to try new and interesting things with transportation. Safety advocates can likewise go overboard, but we wouldn’t have seen cars get dramatically safer (or heavier) since the 1970s if they hadn’t.

Our favorite has to be consumer advocacy, however. With the exception of the occasional predatory lawsuit looking to take advantage of a dumb corporate decision, there’s precious little to scoff about. It also tends to overlap with our pet peeves by decrying bad business practices within the industry. Case in point, the Consumer Access to Repair Coalition has recently asked Congress to rethink how vehicular data is shared — noting that automakers shouldn’t need real-time monitoring for repairs and that the technology likely poses an unnecessary security risk. 

The Consumer Access to Repair (CAR) Coalition, which happens to be the newest member of the right-to-repair movement, wants the U.S. government to reject the five-year federal preemption on state actions regarding telematics data-sharing that the Alliance for Automotive Innovation (AAI) requested. Whereas the AAI represents major automakers and part suppliers, the CAR Coalition is comprised of Allstate, Automotive Body Parts Association (ABPA), Certified Automotive Parts Association (CAPA), and LKQ Corporation.

Their stated goal is to make sure independent automotive parts and repair companies aren’t edged out of the industry while also backing the customer’s right to fix and modify their own vehicles. On Wednesday, the group released an open letter to House of Representatives’ Committee on Energy and Commerce addressing concerns that customers are losing the ability to control vehicle-generated data — data it argues should have been private in the first place.

It also accused the big boys of being monopolistic (e.g. John Deere):

Increasingly, tactics employed by OEMs – including the use of embedded software and data restrictions – are driving out repair competition, while the consumer cost of auto repair has risen dramatically. OEMs are now calling for a five-year federal preemption of any state action regarding access to telematics data, a move which would only strengthen their developing monopoly of the automotive collision repair chain. The CAR Coalition urges you to reject this proposal. The American public would be better served by an open dialogue on these issues – including Congressional hearings – resulting in comprehensive legislation that preserves consumer choice and control over their data while ensuring cybersecurity, privacy, and safety protections.

The CAR Coalition rejects any suggestions that empowering consumers to control their data must come at the expense of road safety or that we would support measures that would jeopardize safety. Our members have an extensive history of being at the forefront of improving road and vehicle safety, from seatbelts and airbags to distracted driving laws. Our members are also industry leaders when it comes to consumer choice, whether it be allowing a consumer to choose who fixes their car or what a consumer should be allowed to do with their data.

It also stated that there is “no scenario in which real-time, remote access by third parties would be necessary to diagnose or repair a vehicle.” That would seem to indicate it believes the industry push into data acquisition is all about controlling the market and using those analytics for marketing purposes in a manner similar to Facebook or Google.

Formally launched today, The Consumer Access to Repair Coalition said it will call on Congress to explore expanded consumer choice over personal vehicle data. But it also wants a slice of the data pie if it’s up for grabs.

While the CAR Coalition still would like to give consumers full control of how/where data is shared, it noted that there would be benefits for those willing to participate in the information exchange. This primarily pertains to insurers (note the Allstate connection) who may offer discounts to those willing to share their telemetry. However, the group also suggested repair shops could also benefit by using real-time data to track maintenance schedules.

Frankly, we don’t think it’s any of their business, either — but the cat is kind of out of the bag on this one. All modern cars transmit information to varying degrees, and their further digitization is assumed necessary as more features are added. At least the CAR Coalition wants customers to have the option to say “no” and seems to understand the risks of letting unfettered data to swirl around in the ether. Privacy concerns are the core issue here, with little assurance from manufacturers that this information will be handled responsibly or be kept safe.

Of course, even if automakers could keep that promise, the Consumer Access to Repair Coalition seems to think that other avenues exist for harm. “Allowing an OEM exclusive control access and sharing of this data will inhibit consumer choice and allow it to potentially exploit the data for its own enrichment through targeted advertising, promoting their own products and services, or even selling it,” the group wrote.

As it’s something we’ve obsessively chanted for years, it’s certainly nice to hear it echoed elsewhere. And yet it’s hard to shake the feeling that the data exchange is already beyond the pale. It seems like every company is creepily eager to harvest our data these days — all so it can be shopped around the planet and return to us by way of targeted advertisements we didn’t ask for.


[Image: Tyler Olson/Shutterstock]


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22 Comments on “The Hero We Need: Consumer Access to Repair Coalition...”

  • avatar

    I apologize for the naivety of this question, but as far as vehicular telemetry is concerned, why does it matter if this information is shared? So my car projects which roads I drive on… cool. So does my phone- which is inside the car. So does my GPS system that’s inside that car- that receives updates via the interwebz. So does almost literally any other part of my daily life.

    I remember not long ago, an expose done on smart phones (both android and apple tested) that outlined that they store and transmit data even when EVERY privacy setting is enabled and the PHONE WAS TURNED OFF and when in “airplane mode”. Hundreds of data points in a mere hour.

    Maybe I just don’t understand that particular part.

    The “Right to Repair” though, I’m definitely all for.

    • 0 avatar
      Art Vandelay

      If they are going to make money selling my location data, I’d like a cut. Actually I’d all and if they want to purchase it from me I’d be happy to discuss my terms with them. That’s my reason. I don’t like it on phones, but it does contribute to the modern use experience. This isn’t the case with a vehicle…they are simply making something extra off of me that adds zero to my experience.

      • 0 avatar

        For the sake of the conversation- How does either entity knowing which grocery store you visit or which [insert any commercialization here] you use benefit you at all beyond targeted advertising- something that also has had a huge push against with Google selling your search data?

        Serious question, not trying to be inflammatory.

        • 0 avatar
          Art Vandelay

          Legit question. Applications like Waze for example share location to help make my commute better. There is a trade off there and the data sharing is part of the user experience. I would assume they not sell the data beyond that, but it is likely required to be profitable and the app gives me some value, so I compromise. Not my favorite arrangement though, but at least I get something out of it.

      • 0 avatar

        @Art Vandelay: “If they are going to make money selling my location data, I’d like a cut. ”

        Andrew Yang had “data as a property right” as part of his platform. I agree totally. Our data should be considered a copyrighted work available for purchase to whoever we decide to sell it to. If people were paid for their data, marketers might actually get better more accurate data.

    • 0 avatar

      Not everyone is interested in their lives being an open book to be scrutinized by others. (Have you read George Orwell’s “Nineteen Eighty Four” by any chance?)

      Why give them the information in the first place? I don’t have a smartphone and would not buy a car that shared information with the manufacturer or anyone else. I don’t use Microsoft, Apple, or Google products. Also no smart appliances, etc. I like my devices to be dumb as a bag of hammers and have no interest at all in them “getting to know me”.

      • 0 avatar

        @2manycars- While I understand and appreciate that sentiment, I would almost bet large sums of money that you’re not alone in that mindset but you’re almost certainly in the VAST minority in application of that mindset. I’d wager that a greater majority of the folks that are walking around with a phone in their pocket don’t LIKE the idea that their phones are spying on them and selling data, but they won’t NOT have a smart phone. Same with these vehicles sharing data. They don’t LIKE the idea of it, but at the end of the day, the vehicle has the newest techno-whizbangery so they will deal with the info-sharing they dislike…. assuming they even know their phones are spying on them. There’s that crowd, too. Oblivious.

        • 0 avatar
          Art Vandelay

          @2Manycars has a valid point though. I just purchased 2 new vehicles. I don’t recall ever signing where I agree to give them any data. And it isn’t like they tell you. It is easy to opt out with respect to mobile data…just don’t use a modern smartphone, or any mobile phone if you so desire. But it isn’t so easy to opt out of owning a modern automobile. Sure, you can get some 90’s crapbox or a b!+chin’ 3rd gen Camaro, but some people don’t have the means for that.

          This sort of thing should be strictly opt in.

          • 0 avatar

            I completely agree that it *should* be “opt-in”, but I guess my question is more along the lines of “Why does it matter?” I can’t imagine there’s any PII attached to your vehicles transmitted data.

            I do understand the sentiment of not being particularly happy about data sharing, I’m just not personally understanding the rationale behind WHY.

            Odd, I know. Thanks for the chat gents!

  • avatar

    It probably has more to do with how you use your vehicle as opposed to where you go with it. They can monitor driving patterns deemed “abusive” and void any warranty.
    Another aspect of restricting or sharing involes diagnosing/troubleshooting a problem or sharing data about common problems in a specific vehicle. If you can’t access the data stored by your vehicle you cannot fix it yourself. You also cannot get it repaired by a mechanic of your choice. They can create a repair monopoly and/or profit off of selling the data stored by your vehicle.

    • 0 avatar
      Art Vandelay

      There is that angle too. I haven’t seen it done (though I haven’t looked) but yeah, I suppose there is nothing to stop them from seeing in your telemetery that you were at a drag strip and noting several occasions that your car moved exactly 1/4 mile at a rapid pace and denying the warranty. That can be achieved mostly without the location data though. Heck the Dodge will record your passes and post them on the internet for you.

      • 0 avatar

        @Art Vandelay – I’m more concerned about locking out vehicle diagnostics like what shows up on code readers.
        Data access also can be used in vehicle crash analytics. A fellow I know was a tech at a Chevy dealership and a lady tried to get out of paying for a crash she caused by claiming the brakes and ABS failed on her vehicle. She threatened litigation. GM flew out an engineer with a “special” laptop. Plugged into the vehicle and based on all the data showed that the brakes/ABS worked as intended. It showed that the lady had applied the brakes almost at the point of impact. They handed the data to the police and insurance company. she was screwed but rightly deserved it.

  • avatar

    Environmental activists do NOT have their hearts in the right place. The environmental movement at its core is an anti-human movement that sees people as a blight. Like just about all left-wing activists they indulge in a constant stream of lies and distortions in order to further their goal of forcibly imposing their tyrannical values on everyone else at gunpoint. Environmental activists are today’s Leninists/Stalinists/Maoists.

  • avatar

    “All modern cars transmit information to varying degrees”

    If you’re not paying for a cellular connection in your car and you don’t use GPS, how is your car transmitting info to a 3rd party?

    Unless you change your own oil and tires, tire shops, quick oil change places and dealers have all of this info on your car anyway.

    • 0 avatar

      Many new cars, regardless if you USE the GPS or not, still transmit update data to the GPS system. Tangentially, the GPS is still logging where the car is and the telemetrics of the car can be transmitted. Gone are the days when you have to use a CD/DVD purchased from the dealer/manufacturer to update your GPS systems.

    • 0 avatar

      The MFG pays for the connection. My wife has a C-Max Energi that you can connect with via your computer or an app. So you can log in with either and remote start the car, or set “go times” to have it have the car at your desired temp when you want to leave. There is no cost at all. Though I do wonder if they will continue to support that when the car is 20 years old.

      • 0 avatar

        They won’t support it, and you’ll have no recourse. Just ask the owners of “smart” refrigerators purchased five years ago, their connectivity features no longer work because the software and APIs that enabled them are considered obsolete by the manufacturer. Refrigerators, TVs and automobiles typically last longer than five years, but there is no law that requires manufacturers to support software or firmware throughout the life of the product.

        • 0 avatar

          i remember a looong time ago visiting a frys and seeing a korean sidebyside fridge with a bluescreen. i rebooted it and up popped windows xp! $5000 or so at the time. dumb.

  • avatar
    schmitt trigger

    Because of the far less mileage being driven because of COVID, I called my insurance to see if they were offering discounts.

    No they said. “However we have this wonderful gadget that we install on your vehicle, will monitor how carefully you drive, and then we can offer you a discount. Nice discount.”

    Boy, I hesitated for a moment but eventually said no. My father drilled into me “if an offer is too good to be true, there is a hidden cost”.

    After reading the above discussions, I now realize what that hidden cost is.

    Did I do wrong?

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    @Lou_BC–Agree if you have read about John Deere this is the very thing they are doing and they are being sued because farmers cannot work on their own equipment. As for my driving habits I am not an aggressive driver but I don’t really like to share anymore data with a corporation or even the Government than I have to.

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