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Land Line: Maine Voters to Decide on ‘Right to Repair’ Law

Source: Keith Goble, Land Line

Voters in Maine will decide this fall whether to implement a “Right to Repair” law.

Currently in the state, vehicle manufacturers are not required to provide diagnostic and repair information to vehicle owners and independent repair businesses. Necessary information for maintenance and repairs is limited to authorized dealerships.

A Right to Repair law in the state is intended to give vehicle owners and independent repair shops access to information, tools and software needed to repair and maintain vehicles.

Maine ballot question

If approved by Maine voters, vehicle owners and independent repair facilities in the state will be allowed to have access to vehicle on-board diagnostic systems.

According to Ballotpedia, passage of the ballot question would require manufacturers to equip vehicles that use a telematics system with an owner-authorized access platform, and require the platform to send commands to in-vehicle components for purposes of maintenance, diagnostics and repair.

An independent entity would administer access to vehicle-generated data. The entity would also be responsible for ensuring access to data is secure and develop policies related to the access of data.

Massachusetts rule

Massachusetts voters have acted twice over the past decade to enact and revise the state’s Right to Repair law.

In place since 2013, the rule requires vehicle manufacturers to provide consumers and independent repair shops access to the diagnostic and repair information made available to dealers. Specifically, vehicle owners and independent mechanics are granted access to vehicle computer information used to diagnose problems via a handheld device plugged into a physical port in the vehicle.

The original rule, however, did not permit vehicle owners or independent mechanics access to telematics systems.

In 2020, voters approved a revision to require manufacturers that sell personal vehicles or commercial vehicles with telematics systems in the state to include a standardized open data platform. The platform enables vehicle owners and independent repair shops to retrieve mechanical data and run diagnostics through a mobile-based application.

Common features of telematics in vehicles include collision notification, vehicle diagnostics and emergency assistance.

Federal government concerns

Critics say that an open access platform makes vehicle data vulnerable to hackers.

Prior to the 2020 vote in Massachusetts, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shared its concern with Massachusetts lawmakers.

In a letter from the NHTSA deputy administrator, lawmakers were told that “while the initiative requires the system to be ‘secure,’ it does not define what that vague term means, nor does it reflect any established best practices or other measures to address cybersecurity risks.”

NHTSA warned automakers last month not to comply with the Massachusetts rule. The agency cites hacking concerns.

Supporters counter concerns

Supporters say concerns about cybersecurity are overblown. They add that change is necessary to allow vehicle owners to shop around for repair work and to level the playing field for independent repair shops.

Kate Kahn of the Maine Right to Repair Coalition has said the issue is about choice.

“Consumers want the ability to choose where to take their cars and trucks to be repaired. They do not want to be told they can only take their autos to expensive dealerships.”

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