Independent auto repair shops are pressing for an update to the state Right to Repair law. The law, which was passed in 2012, requires auto manufacturers to provide owners and independent repair shops access to vehicles’ onboard computers. Those computers, especially in newer cars, gather all sorts of information about the vehicles’ performance and allow for quick and accurate diagnostics of problems.
But the technology is changing with the times and vehicles in growing numbers, in addition to onboard computers, also have the capability of wirelessly transmitting data to the vehicles’ manufacturers. Independent repair shop owners fear that before long they will no longer be able to plug cars into their computers to diagnose problems and will be effectively shut out of repair services.
Independent repair shops currently pay auto manufacturers for the software that is required to diagnose problems; presumably the state Right to Repair law would simply be updated to require the same access but with wireless technology.
The current law was a ballot question that passed by a whopping 86 percent. The citizenry clearly likes and approves of it. One wouldn’t think an update that takes into account wireless technology would be a controversial issue.
But it could be.
Wireless technology installed in cars is pretty neat stuff. It provides real-time information on the wear on brakes, for example, or engine compression. Your auto dealer will know before you do if your vehicle needs attention.
But what else do they know? Well, they know how far you drive per trip and how fast you drive. And they probably know where you drive and what stores are near the stops you make.
If someone is collecting this information, what are they doing with it? Auto dealers will be in a good position to know when you will be shopping for a new car. They might also sell your information for marketing purposes.
Many people might not worry in the least about that. After all, Google, Facebook and other tech companies have been collecting data like that for a long time now.
On the other hand, there might be others who feel enough is enough. In the end, the argument might not be whether independent repair shops get access to vehicle data; it may be that the argument is about how much data should be collected in the first place.