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HomeTechnologyUnexpected reversal in Massachusetts' Right-to-Repair law for automobiles.

Unexpected reversal in Massachusetts’ Right-to-Repair law for automobiles.

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In 2020, Massachusetts voters passed a law requiring automakers to build an “open data platform” that would grant owners and independent repair shops access to the information necessary for diagnosing and repairing cars. However, automakers argued that this platform would compromise their systems and potentially jeopardize driver safety. The Alliance for Automotive Innovation, a trade association representing carmakers, sued the state. Nevertheless, the Biden administration has now supported Massachusetts voters, with a lawyer from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) stating in a letter that the federal government would allow the state to enforce the law. This change of course from the administration has sparked discussions about the right-to-repair movement and the future of internet-connected cars.

Previously, NHTSA’s lawyer, Kerry Kolodziej, had warned automakers not to comply with Massachusetts’ law, fearing that the open data platform could make cars vulnerable to hackers. However, the recent letter suggests that there are secure ways to provide access to crucial vehicle repair information. For instance, car manufacturers could utilize short-range wireless protocols, such as Bluetooth, to grant owners and authorized independent shops access to the necessary information for diagnosing and repairing vehicles. This reversal by the federal government opens up new opportunities for national discussions on right-to-repair issues.

While it is still uncertain how this recent development will impact car buyers in Massachusetts, as the automakers’ lawsuit is ongoing, the state attorney general had previously expressed intentions to enforce the law. The NHTSA letter also acknowledges the nonexistence of the required open data platform, indicating that federal and state lawmakers have agreed to give vehicle manufacturers a reasonable period of time to develop and implement the technology securely. Overall, this new stance by the federal government presents a starting point for conversations about the future of internet-connected cars, privacy, safety, and the right to repair.

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