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"Right To Repair" Bill Advances In Massachusetts 478

Posted by kdawson
from the not-open-source-but-it's-a-step dept.
Wannabe Code Monkey sends along an article from the Patriot Ledger about an effort in Massachusetts to pass a "Right to Repair" bill. "Since the advent of congressionally mandated computers in vehicles more than 15 years ago (for emissions), cars have evolved into complex machines that are no longer just mechanical. Computers now monitor and control most systems in the car from brakes to tire pressure and all the electronics and engine fluids... [and] car manufacturers continue to hold back on some of the information that your mechanic needs in order to properly repair your car and reset your codes and warning lights... Massachusetts is now poised to solve this problem and car-driving consumers should pay attention this fall when the Massachusetts Legislature takes up landmark legislation that would force manufacturers to respect the right of consumers to access their own repair information. The legislation, known as Right to Repair, is seen by car manufacturers as a threat to the lucrative service business in their dealerships and they are massing their lobbyists on Beacon Hill in an effort to defeat it."
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"Right To Repair" Bill Advances In Massachusetts

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  • Hey Big Auto (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rsborg (111459) on Tuesday September 15, 2009 @06:01PM (#29433221) Homepage
    Listen, we bailed your asses out.
    Time you started listening to OUR needs.

    - The Taxpayers

    p.s., next time we'll just outsource your C-level jobs to India and China and keep the factory workers here.

  • Re:Yes! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Abreu (173023) on Tuesday September 15, 2009 @06:05PM (#29433281)

    This is very important, because if Ford* needs to release the information needed to repair the Focus* to the state of Massachusetts, they will basically make it available everywhere in the world where Ford sells this car.

    Similar to other US state laws regarding pollution or safe materials, this will affect us worldwide

    * Just as an example

  • Re:Yes! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Master Moose (1243274) on Tuesday September 15, 2009 @06:11PM (#29433347) Homepage
    They will get around it. All it will take is for some car manufacturer to put in a EULA that you can not read until you have purchased the car. There will be no way to not accept this EULA. Starting the car to drive it back to the dealers will be seen as accepting all terms and conditions. If you were to install a new component to your vehicle for either repair or upgrade, your cars computer will assume that you are now a thief and the car will refuse to run.
  • by bogaboga (793279) on Tuesday September 15, 2009 @06:11PM (#29433349)

    You might wonder what I mean, so here's my take:

    If I have a corrupt Microsoft Office document, I should be allowed access to its "closed" file format in order to repair the document.

    How about that?

  • Re:Unexpected (Score:3, Insightful)

    by digitalunity (19107) <digitalunityNO@SPAMyahoo.com> on Tuesday September 15, 2009 @06:12PM (#29433359) Homepage

    My impression was that most repair shops are already equipped to deal with OBD-II cars, which would cover engine, emissions and transmission error codes. There are plenty of manufacturer specific codes, but as far as I know, the majority of them are already publicly available.

    I haven't read the article yet. Does this just legislatively require manufacturers to release what is already known? Or does this go beyond OBD-II stuff?

  • Lets see here... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Darkness404 (1287218) on Tuesday September 15, 2009 @06:12PM (#29433363)
    Why would anyone oppose this? Lets see here our tax money has (without a popular vote even) bailed out most US auto makers, made it a crime to really reverse engineer computer systems in general, and has supported various pro-auto maker legislation. If they are going to take -our- tax money, and if the government insists on criminalizing reverse engineering and modification of cars, the only sane thing is that they must release documentation allowing everyone to do repairs themselves. Don't like it? Don't take our tax money, and lobby congress with all your $$$ to repeal various forms of legislation making it hard to reverse engineer things legally.
  • Re:Yes! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by NewbieProgrammerMan (558327) on Tuesday September 15, 2009 @06:14PM (#29433385)

    People might accept that behavior for a $30 piece of software, but they will *not* accept it for a $18,000 car. I almost wish some car company would try it, but then they'd crash in flames and we'd have to bail them out again.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 15, 2009 @06:14PM (#29433401)

    The game sucks.

    The only people dumb enough to play Crysis are the idiot who are retarded enough to call their computers 'rigs'.

  • by clarkkent09 (1104833) * on Tuesday September 15, 2009 @06:15PM (#29433409)
    It's not quite socialism, but if you think it's the job of the government to pass legislation to guarantee your "right" to information that enables you to repair your car, then I do have a very fundamental disagreement with you about what the government is for. What about coffee makers? Mine just broke down and I googled all over the place and I can't find ANY information on how to diagnose what is wrong with it! Should I write to my congressman and demand a law for the "right to repair" coffee makers?
  • by nilbog (732352) on Tuesday September 15, 2009 @06:15PM (#29433411) Homepage Journal

    So essentially the government is paying auto manufacturers to send lobbyists back to washington to lobby on behalf of the auto manufacturers which Washington actually owns?

  • Re:That's no right (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 15, 2009 @06:17PM (#29433445)

    Every single American car company, and I suspect most other ones as well.

  • Re:Ron Paul (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Darkness404 (1287218) on Tuesday September 15, 2009 @06:22PM (#29433495)
    That would work... But we don't have a free market. Lets see here, oh you mean that we as the taxpayers have -paid- with our tax dollars to bail out various failing auto companies? I don't call that the free market. I call that wealth redistribution. Would you pay with your taxes for a new bridge and then accept not being able to drive across it for no reason? Taxpayers paid for these companies, it is not feasible with the current technology to hand out free cars because the raw materials cost money. However, source code and repair documentation costs nothing. It is the very least they could do after we were forced to give up our hard earned money to support an industry without the financial sense to balance its finances.
  • Re:Yes! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tkw954 (709413) on Tuesday September 15, 2009 @06:23PM (#29433525)

    This is very important, because if Ford* needs to release the information needed to repair the Focus* to the state of Massachusetts, they will basically make it available everywhere in the world where Ford sells this car. Similar to other US state laws regarding pollution or safe materials, this will affect us worldwide

    Or they'll add a state-specific encryption key needed to unlock the computer for repair work. And they'll only release the key for vehicles sold in Massachusetts.

  • Re:Hey Big Auto (Score:4, Insightful)

    by brian0918 (638904) <brian0918NO@SPAMgmail.com> on Tuesday September 15, 2009 @06:39PM (#29433701)
    I didn't want to bail them out, I don't want their cars, and I don't want my freedoms disgraced further with the ridiculous notion that they now owe us something.

    - An American Taxpayer
  • Re:Hey Big Auto (Score:5, Insightful)

    by selven (1556643) on Tuesday September 15, 2009 @06:46PM (#29433787)
    We own part of these companies now. Might as well salvage something out of this disaster and use our control.
  • by waterm (261542) on Tuesday September 15, 2009 @06:52PM (#29433843)
    The REAL problem isn't that the car repair info is hard to find, the problem is that every manufacturer has a different methodology and toolset to service vehicles. How can an independent shop be expected to have all of the hardware/software/expertise to diagnose vehicles? They can't!

    What is really needed is improved efforts on commonizing service approaches. Before that can be done however, the underlying components need to fall in line. This is happening with the roll out of common communication busses (ie CAN), diagnostic communication services (iso-14229), and open Electronic Control Unit platforms (ie: AUTOSAR).

    The OEMs are already taking steps that will facilitate easier service and support. It is in their best interests to do so because it lowers their cost to do business. Legislation won't likely speed that up process but probably hinder it by distracting their limited resources.
  • Re:Yes! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by InsertWittyNameHere (1438813) on Tuesday September 15, 2009 @06:58PM (#29433905)
    Furthermore the vehicle will only come with one Vehicle Access License (VAL) for the purchaser (primary driver). Additional VALs must be purchased for each additional driver. VALs come in two forms: Standard for occasional drivers and Enterprise for secondary drivers. These licenses cannot be transferred from one vehicle to another unless you subscribe to the Vehicle Assurance program.
  • Priorities? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Burning1 (204959) on Tuesday September 15, 2009 @07:03PM (#29433971) Homepage

    I like how more people are up in arms about financial bailouts and 'socialized medicine' than NSA wiretapping, denial of Habius Corpus, 'Free Speach Zones' and what not.

    We invested in them. They do owe us something.

  • Re:Yes! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Attila Dimedici (1036002) on Tuesday September 15, 2009 @07:05PM (#29433991)

    You're right that any mechanic can read the legislated OBD-II codes. However, manufacturers are allowed to use proprietary codes or protocols for anything that isn't emissions related, and it wouldn't be too difficult to lock you out of everything else, if they really wanted to. Reading OBD-II trouble codes is only the tip of the iceberg of what you can do when you have full read and write access to the ECU.

    That is the point of this law, they currently "lock you out" by not publishing what those codes mean. I'm pretty sure that what you are suggesting would violate either the current OBD-II legislation or this new law. Additionally, the problem with releasing the key only for cars sold in Massachusetts is that the manufacturer can only know what cars are sold new in Mass, this law would also cover cars sold used.
    I find this business practice on the part of automobile manufacturers very offensive. On the other hand, I am very skeptical of additional government regulation. My suspicion is that the problem this law is designed to fix is one that was created by government regulation in the first place.

  • Re:Yes! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by easyTree (1042254) on Tuesday September 15, 2009 @07:14PM (#29434041)

    and it wouldn't be too difficult to lock you out of everything else, if they really wanted to

    I guess the question we should be asking is "what's wrong with the world such that someone you've paid wants to screw you out of the thing you've paid for?". Really; how many more generations before this mindset dies for good? What is *wrong* with you ppl?

  • Re:Yes! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by easyTree (1042254) on Tuesday September 15, 2009 @07:21PM (#29434111)

    I hope you're not suggesting that contracts revert to being bi-directional. We have a proud tradition of contracts being used to benefit us and screw you; if it's not broken, don't try to fix it.

  • Re:Yes! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by easyTree (1042254) on Tuesday September 15, 2009 @07:22PM (#29434121)

    Does anyone get the impression that the planet is being sacked ? Pretty soon there'll only be a husk left and then they'll blast off to corporatize another virgin planet. Woohoo!

  • My two cents (Score:5, Insightful)

    by shentino (1139071) on Tuesday September 15, 2009 @07:25PM (#29434165)

    "The legislation, known as Right to Repair, is seen by car manufacturers as a threat to the lucrative service business in their dealerships and they are massing their lobbyists on Beacon Hill in an effort to defeat it."

    Translation:

    "We are getting rich off of keeping ourselves be the only ones able to fix our cars, and we don't want no smegging competition."

    Personally I think that this is anticompetitive.

  • Re:Yes! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ral8158 (947954) on Tuesday September 15, 2009 @07:28PM (#29434199)
    My suspicion is that the problem this law is designed to fix is one that was created by government regulation in the first place.
    Or it could just be that the corporations found a way to screw the consumer out of a quick buck, and that we don't live in a universe with unlimited resources and competition? Seriously, it is within the realm of possibility that a government can Do Good (tm).
  • Re:Hey Big Auto (Score:2, Insightful)

    by selven (1556643) on Tuesday September 15, 2009 @07:32PM (#29434233)
    Even then, the statement still applies. The government owns part of these companies now. It might as well salvage something out of this disaster and use its control.
  • Re:Yes! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by omnichad (1198475) on Tuesday September 15, 2009 @07:42PM (#29434323) Homepage

    If that exposes the consumer to the poorly designed system, the consumer will better be able to see the value of a vehicle by another manufacturer that might understand their own vehicles better (or create better diagnostic tools). So OEM #1 loses sales or has to improve their product. I don't see the downside.

  • Re:Priorities? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Tuesday September 15, 2009 @07:44PM (#29434343) Journal
    "Men more quickly forget the death of their father than the loss of their patrimony."

    --Machiavelli

    Aside from that, of course, you can (quite literally) get away with murder if the public is convinced that you are the only thing between them and the scary foreigners.
  • Re:Hey Big Auto (Score:3, Insightful)

    by 0100010001010011 (652467) on Tuesday September 15, 2009 @08:01PM (#29434513)

    Dear Taxpayer.

    Go fuck yourself.

    Foreign automakers + Ford.

  • Re:Yes! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by vux984 (928602) on Tuesday September 15, 2009 @08:08PM (#29434591)

    I will love to see all the attorney's general complaints over mom/pops charging 10 hours to diagnose something that even the OEM can't document!

    There is a layer between mom/pops and the dealer. The big chain repair shops in particular will have the resources to make good use of additional diagnostic information. To the point of having in house engineers trained by the manufacturers to provide support.

    I will love to see all the attorney's general complaints over mom/pops charging 10 hours to diagnose something that even the OEM can't document!

    Heh, I'd rather pay 10 hours at 70$/hr for 'pop' to diagnose something the OEM can't figure out vs $120/hr for the OEM to spend the same 10 hours not being able to figure it out.

    I generally actually prefer a good mom/pop shop for maddeningly intermittent or particularly difficult to diagnose issues because of this.

    To do a reverse slashdot and make an IT analogy of this car scenario... sometimes you really need to involve Microsoft to solve an error, but far more often than not, you can solve it independently (or at least with 3rd party consultants/technicians) -- in large part because a LOT of (not all, but a LOT) of the errors are documented fairly well, and the web community has filled in a lot of the gaps in the docs. It would be a very different world if every time outlook couldn't download your mail you had to send your computer into Microsoft to fix the "0x000AA352B error code".

  • Re:Yes! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by xmundt (415364) on Tuesday September 15, 2009 @08:31PM (#29434787)

    Greetings and Salutations;
              Actually, the car companies are doing exactly what they are mandated to do. We all have to remember that the job of the car companies is NOT to produce great transportation for Americans and the rest of the world. Their job, being a publicly traded company, is to make as much profit for their shareholders, at the lowest expense possible.
              As long as this subtle difference in goals is in force, we will have the same situation of the car companies working to vacuum as much cash out of our pockets as possible, and, doing what ever they can to keep competition from rising.
              Regards
              Dave Mundt
       

  • Re:Yes! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Mr. Freeman (933986) on Tuesday September 15, 2009 @08:33PM (#29434811)
    The problem is that you're assuming that a vehicle sold in Massachusetts stays and Massachusetts and that no other vehicles are brought in. A vehicle sold in Colorado would have to be serviceable by mechanics in Massachusetts, thus the code would have to work on all vehicles. If the code works everywhere, it WILL get leaked and people everywhere will be able to repair their own vehicles.
  • by HornWumpus (783565) on Tuesday September 15, 2009 @08:40PM (#29434865)

    A better way of looking at it is are the the car makers allowed to collude with the dealers to restrain the trade of the independent shops via lockout.

    Posting the question that way even Adam Smith himself would say hell no. Markets have to be reasonably free for 'free markets' to work.

    They all need to be publish all the diagnostic codes.

  • Re:Yes! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Abcd1234 (188840) on Tuesday September 15, 2009 @10:07PM (#29435505) Homepage

    My suspicion is that the problem this law is designed to fix is one that was created by government regulation in the first place.

    Uh, and you come to that conclusion *how*, exactly?

    Here, let's play a little game. Let's pretend there were no regulations dictating the actions of car companies, no laws restricting reverse engineering (it's not clear to me that reverse engineering is actually illegal, here, but I can see it falling into a gray area), and no IP laws protecting their trade secrets. You know what would happen? The manufacturers would encrypt all output coming from their car computers, and would include decryption hardware on the gear they sell to the mechanics. Those mechanics would then be placed under a strict contract (which, according to Libertarian thinking, is perfectly reasonable... the government, after all, should exist primarily to enforce voluntary contracts between individuals) such that any attempt to break down, reverse engineer, or otherwise misuse the equipment would result in termination of their contract and repossession of the equipment in question. Voila! The consumer is completely screwed and they have absolutely no recourse (after all, the government getting involved would be evil socialism).

    Now, if you can find some clever libertarian solution to this problem, or can otherwise find an issue with my logic, please, show it to me. Because I just don't see it.

    And as an aside, one might say "Well, competition solves the problem! A competitor can just come in, keep their cars open, and voila they steal market share!" But, of course, that completely ignores fun things like barrier to entry (yes, believe it or not, it costs a fuckton to get into the car manufacturing business), not to mention good ol' fashioned collusion. 'course, libertarians do like to ignore inconvenient facts such as this.

  • by MidnightBrewer (97195) on Tuesday September 15, 2009 @10:16PM (#29435597)

    Capitalism is good, extortion is bad. We support people trying to make a buck, it's when they hold your life ransom in order to make unreasonable amounts of cash that we have a problem. This is an example of the government doing what it's supposed to do: represent the people's will. The people think the car companies are taking advantage of them and want it to stop.

    Also, in terms of capitalism, the car companies are muscling legitimate competition (the independent mechanics) out of the picture. This brings us to the ironic position of requiring regulation in order to maintain a free market. It's a good thing, though.

  • Re:Ron Paul (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 15, 2009 @10:22PM (#29435639)

    If we have to take it to them to repair and gouge us, then the only incentive they have is to sell faulty cars.
    They've seen what not listening to the public got them, let's hope they eventually learn something

  • by Alien Being (18488) on Tuesday September 15, 2009 @10:59PM (#29435913)

    "industry standard connectors on the CPU"

    It has nothing to do with the CPU. The reason ECMs are specific to cars is that different cars have different sensors and actuators that require different control hardware and signals. How many fuel injector lines should there be? What kind of drivers do they need? Turbo boost controls? How many knock sensors? Even open source ECMs are built to suit certain applications. One size fits all doesn't work unless everything goes on a network. I don't think fuel injectors and temperature sensors need network addresses and I certainly wouldn't want to pay the dealer to configure them for me.

    You're pissed off that you had to pay $700 for something that should have been under $200. Toyota screwed you. What makes you think they won't charge $500 to program an ECM you get from someone else? The ECM for my 1987 GM is specific to the particular model, but I can get a replacement for $100 and transfer the data by plugging in a couple PROMs.

    I agree that many modules in automobiles could and should be standardized for plug compatibility but the ECM is not one of them.

  • Re:Yes! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by socsoc (1116769) on Tuesday September 15, 2009 @11:07PM (#29435971)
    It's pretty different. It's more like if you had to take your Epson printer to a service shop to determine which cartridge needing replacement because the information for that was only available to Epson shops and the printer merely displayed "a new cartridge is required"
  • Re:Hey Big Auto (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Omestes (471991) <omestes@g[ ]l.com ['mai' in gap]> on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @03:22AM (#29437233) Homepage Journal

    If "we" had any measure of control whatsoever, the government would not have bailed out the car companies.

    Er.. we voted for the people who voted to bail out the car companies... Thus we voted to bail out the car companies. Sure, you personally didn't vote for these people (perhaps), and thats okay too. The system is working as intended. I also didn't vote for two silly wars, umpteen instances of bad, antagonistic, foreign policy, tax cuts for the very rich, etc... But that also doesn't really matter in a Democracy (or a Democratic republic, as the case may be).

    Personally I'm okay with bailing out the car companies (well, "okay" might be putting it a bit strong, I hate the idea but see the necissity), I'd rather we do that than give trillions of dollars to bankers and badly managed financial institutions.

  • Re:Yes! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by squizzar (1031726) on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @04:38AM (#29437617)
    I'd guess because either:

    - Their shareholders have a limited amount of risk they are willing to take with their money.

    - All the things you have mentioned are illegal. At the moment making it impossible for independent or amateur mechanics to repair their cars isn't

  • Re:Ron Paul (Score:2, Insightful)

    by raymansean (1115689) on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @06:09AM (#29438003)
    And what is a car's reasonable life time? Imagine if there was a sedan built in 1982 that still gets 25-28mpg and still passes all the smog tests. Are you saying that it is more environmentally responsible to crush that car and buy a new sedan that gets 28-30 mpg?
  • Re:Yes! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by z80kid (711852) on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @06:55AM (#29438255)
    Insightful?

    Let's pretend there were no regulations dictating the actions of car companies, no laws restricting reverse engineering... and no IP laws protecting their trade secrets. ... The manufacturers would encrypt all output coming from their car computers...

    They have the ability to do that now, yet they don't. I don't see how less laws would change that.

    Those mechanics would then be placed under a strict contract (which, according to Libertarian thinking, is perfectly reasonable...

    So under a Libertarian society, there would necessarily be no limits whatsoever on contracts? The government would enforce slavery and prostitution? I don't think so.

    You know, if you follow any ideology blindly as far as you can take it, you will come to an illogical conclusion.

    Liberals say that everyone has a "right" to health care. Follow that to it's illogical conclusion, and you can say that all health care workers are society's slaves; since others have a "right" to their labor (You could hardly call it a "right" if it had to be paid for.) And for that matter, most of society must become health care workers because a lack of said workers violates someone's rights.

    I guess by your standards that means Liberal philosophy is completely unworkable too, doesn't it?

  • Re:Ron Paul (Score:3, Insightful)

    by AvitarX (172628) <me.brandywinehundred@org> on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @07:08AM (#29438313) Journal

    When people say they used to be able to repair anything on their car with a wrench and a hammer, they're not looking at the full picture

    So true. I here this from older types, how they could save money and repair older cars themselves.

    Of course I have gone 80k with no real repairs on my car (breaks/oil). Considering 100k used be a decent milestone on a car, I imagine I'm running far smoother than historically (I did have some warranty repairs in the first 30k, currently at 110k).

    I much happier with my car that does not need repairs (and it's an American economy car, so presumably sub-par), than a car I can easily repair myself.

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