Massachusetts’ attorney general must defend a lawsuit challenging the state’s right to repair law after a judge denied a request by the AG to dismiss the case brought forward by an automaker group.
The Alliance for Automotive Innovation trade group is fighting back against Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, arguing the state’s recently passed vehicle data law is preempted by federal statutes.
A brief filed by the group January 8, 2021 argues that the “right to repair” measure conflicts with the “requirements, purposes, and objectives” of federal laws including the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act, the Alliance for Automotive Innovation in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts.
The ruling January 27 to allow the case to move forward was expected.
Bill Hanvey, president and CEO of the Auto Care Association, said in an AIA of Canada webinar the day prior that he expected the case would be allowed to go forward, adding that at least part of the reason was that it would raise the profile of the judge presiding.
For his part, in his ruling, Judge Douglas Woodlock, said “There are too many unanswered questions for me here,” to dismiss the case.
In November 2020 elections, Massachusetts voters overwhelmingly approved a ballot initiative that would expand the Right to Repair legislation to ensure that car owners can control the mechanical data that is being transmitted by their vehicle through telematics. This referendum also meant that despite advances in technology, owners would be able to have their repair data shared directly with their trusted independent shops.
The initiative was the subject of a purportedly $35 million campaign by automakers to convince voters they would put their personal safety and security at risk. That campaign was ultimately unsuccessful but its failure was followed up with the lawsuit that will now be heard by Judge Woodlock.
Starting with model year 2022, the law would require manufacturers of motor vehicles sold in Massachusetts to equip any such vehicles that use telematics systems –- systems that collect and wirelessly transmit mechanical data to a remote server –- with a standardized open access data platform. Owners of motor vehicles with telematics systems would get access to mechanical data through a mobile device application.
With vehicle owner authorization, independent repair facilities and independent dealerships would be able to retrieve mechanical data from, and send commands to, the vehicle for repair, maintenance, and diagnostic testing.
Manufacturers would not be allowed to require authorization before owners or repair facilities could access mechanical data stored in a motor vehicle’s onboard diagnostic system, except through an authorization process standardized across all makes and models and administered by an entity unaffiliated with the manufacturer.
In response to the lawsuit, Auto Care Association president and CEO Bill Hanvey called for the courts to respect the will of the voters and dismissed the allegations concerning cybersecurity.
“Over the last several years, the Auto Care Association has joined with cyber security experts to develop international standards that could be readily implemented and will permit the cyber-secure sharing of data. Further, we have offered to work with the manufacturers to adopt these standards in order to ensure competition for their customers. However, instead of working to find common ground, the manufacturers have continued to engage in a scare campaign regarding access to wireless mechanical data, aimed first at voters and now the courts. Just like Massachusetts voters, we trust that the courts will see through the manufacturers’ scare tactics and will throw out this baseless lawsuit.”
The Automotive Industries Association of Canada recently launched the related “You Car. Your Data. Your Choice.” initiative in Canada. The program is designed to build awareness among Canadians at large and lawmakers of the issues surrounding control of the data generated by modern vehicles.
The program also includes a petition supporting consumer control of their vehicle data.
More information on this initiative in Canada can be found HERE.