The Massachusetts Right to Repair ballot update may have passed last November, but automakers and OE parts manufacturers are fighting back.
Last week, a trial began in federal court to hear a lawsuit brought by the Alliance for Automotive Innovation against the right to repair ballot referendum, which became law following its approval by Massachusetts voters by a 75% to 25% margin.
The Massachusetts Right to Repair law gives vehicle owners control over their vehicle data and property. It also opens the opportunity for independent repair shops to run diagnostics and make more complicated vehicle repairs.
The Alliance’s argument states that allowing car owners and independent repair shops to have access to the data collected by their vehicles would expose vehicles to serious cybersecurity concerns. The Alliance, which is made up of more than 20 automakers and OE providers, also argues that its members cannot comply with the 2022 model year requirement established in the law.
Aside from the security debate, the Alliance also argues that this law conflicts with the state of Massachusetts data access rules and federal standards.
However, the issue of balancing data access and the rules of cybersecurity exists in other industries, including phone and health records, according to the Electric Frontier Foundation. These industries allow consumers to access their own data while maintaining the necessary security.
Aaron Lowe, Auto Care Association senior vice president of regulatory and government affairs, testified during the trial. Lowe told the court that the technology needed to ensure the cyber-secure transmission of data already exists, and the implementation of the new law was critical to the future of the independent auto care industry.
Lowe further explained that failure to allow car owners to control their own data will mean that manufacturers will become the gatekeepers, providing them with the ability to determine who repairs vehicles. Lowe further claimed that the law was crucial to ensuring that consumers continue to have a choice on where they have their vehicles repaired.
According to the Auto Care Association, the court also heard from a variety of car companies and independent technical experts who discussed the impact of the ballot. While manufacturer representatives continue to claim that access to data by anyone outside their company would expose vehicles to cyber threats, independent experts argued how the requirement of the ballot question could be met through a system of electronic certificates that would be managed by an independent entity, thus ensuring cybersecurity and competition.