Do EV makers need to rethink data policies with passage of “right to repair” law?

On Tuesday, Massachusetts voters approved an extension of the state’s 2012 “right to repair” law, and that might place electric car manufacturers in an uncomfortable place.

The legislation is intended to ensure that individual owners and independent repair shops have the same access as franchised dealerships to parts, equipment, and software. The new law extension focuses on something that is integral to data from many electric cars.

Under the new legislation, automakers will have to follow uniform open data systems by the 2022 model year, The Verge explained. That would allow owners and independent repair shops to access telematics data tightly regulated by automakers.

As car manufacturers increasingly follow Tesla’s example and allow over-the-air (OTA) software updates, which allow for easy addition of new features and bug correction, but also gives automakers more control over how cars are used, this could become a thorny problem.

For Tesla owners, this is a contentious issue. In recent years, Tesla all but stopped promoting the Roadster but declined to provide any details about how to repair them, although earlier this year, it eventually launched a program to support them after a critical mass of outrage from high-profile owners.

The service experience of used Teslas owners has led to several independent stores that have effectively had to reverse-engineer the vehicles so that some products can be serviced. But Tesla can restrict access to components, or block the fast-charging access of Supercharger DC on repaired cars.

Tesla has remote access to an unparalleled amount of knowledge, including the driving behavior of the owners, which was used by the automaker to defend itself in the wake of accidents allegedly involving its Autopilot driver-assist software.

Tesla discontinued the annual service for its models before the Model Y launch, but made an attempt to enhance the in-house experience.

For businesses such as Ford and General Motors that are only beginning to migrate to OTA upgrades, this could be cause to revisit some of the assumptions they’ve built into their vehicles and the data that’s considered proprietary.

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