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In Massachusetts Some Car Dealers Have Disabled Telematics System in 'Ugly' Right-to-Repair Dispute

Monday February 7, 2022. 09:34 AM , from Slashdot
'Subaru and Kia dealers in Massachusetts have disabled systems that allow remote starts and send maintenance alerts...' reports Wired.
Subaru buyers in Massachusetts also lose access to the telematics system's app, so 'no emergency assistance; no automated messages when the tire pressure was low or the oil needed changing.'

Subaru disabled the telematics system and associated features on new cars registered in Massachusetts last year as part of a spat over a right-to-repair ballot measure approved, overwhelmingly, by the state's voters in 2020. The measure, which has been held up in the courts, required automakers to give car owners and independent mechanics more access to data about the car's internal systems. But the 'open data platform' envisioned by the law doesn't exist yet, and automakers have filed suit to prevent the initiative from taking effect. So first Subaru and then Kia turned off their telematics systems on their newest cars in Massachusetts.... 'This was not to comply with the law — compliance with the law at this time is impossible — but rather to avoid violating it,' Dominick Infante, a spokesperson for Subaru, wrote in a statement. Kia did not respond to a request for comment.

The dispute is the latest chapter in long-running disagreements between the state and automakers over the right to repair, or consumers' ability to fix their own cars or control who does it for them.... [N]ew vehicles are now computers on wheels, gathering an estimated 25 gigabytes per hour of driving data — the equivalent of five HD movies. Automakers say that lots of this information isn't useful to them and is discarded. But some — a vehicle's location, how specific components are operating at a given moment — is anonymized and sent to the manufacturers.... These days, much of the data is transmitted wirelessly. So independent mechanics and right-to-repair proponents worry that automakers will stop sending vital repair information to the diagnostic ports. That would hamper the independents and lock customers into relationships with dealerships....

Automakers say opening the car's mechanical data to anyone would be dangerous — and a violation of federal law. In November 2020, just after voters approved the ballot measure, a trade group that represents most major automakers sued Massachusetts in federal court. The group, the Alliance for Automotive Innovation, argued that the federal government, not states, should control who gets access to cars' telematics systems. The group also said that it would be irresponsible and dangerous to create the open data platform that the law required, especially by 2022....

Dealerships are caught in the middle. It's an especially unfortunate time to be there, given the chip shortage that has curtailed vehicle production — and sales.

One dealer reportedly even asked a potential car buyer, 'Don't you have any friends in Rhode Island whose address you can use?'

Read more of this story at Slashdot.
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