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Massachusetts "Right To Repair" Initiative On Ballot, May Override Compromise 238

Posted by samzenpus
from the fix-it-yourself dept.
skids writes "MA voters face a complex technical and economic question Tuesday about just how open automobile makers should be with their repair and diagnostic interfaces. A legislative compromise struck in July may not be strong enough for consumer's tastes. Proponents of the measure had joined opponents in asking voters to skip the question once the legislature, seeking to avoid legislation by ballot, struck the deal. Weeks before the election they have reversed course and are again urging voters to pass the measure. Now voters have to decide whether the differences between the ballot language and the new law are too hard on manufacturers, or essential consumer protections. At stake is a mandated standard for diagnostic channels in a significant market."
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Massachusetts "Right To Repair" Initiative On Ballot, May Override Compromise

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  • by sinij (911942) on Monday November 05, 2012 @03:23PM (#41884979) Journal
    Mid 90s and newer with few rare exceptions will be lost cause. Already some pristine mid-90s cars are having difficulties with dried/leaked out capacitors and ECUs going south. These are primitive systems compared to your typical car of today.

    The only classic cars on the road in 2030 will be the ones that are classic and are on the road today.
  • Why stop at cars??? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by bobthesungeek76036 (2697689) on Monday November 05, 2012 @03:32PM (#41885111)
    I have a Sun Enterprise M4000 server that has the fault light on. In order to clear the fault light, I must run the "clearfaults" command on the service processor. You must get a special password from now Oracle in order to execute the command... I should be able to run the command myself without paying Oracle for a support contract.
  • by ElitistWhiner (79961) on Monday November 05, 2012 @03:49PM (#41885329) Journal

    VW upgraded my new car's diagnostics software. ALL shift points, RPM ranges and throttle positions changed resulting in a new car that drives nicely like an olde lady would expect. So radical was this upgrade that it changed the handling and performance of the vehicle to something I would never buy.

    VW have refused to re-install OEM software back to the new car fitment. So MA are onto the NEXT contentious issue for consumers paying $$$ hundreds of dollars monthly for product they have absolutely no control except paying rents to manufacturers

  • by macraig (621737) <(mark.a.craig) (at) (gmail.com)> on Monday November 05, 2012 @04:03PM (#41885503)

    They serve two completely different purposes, then. California's law was about thwarting or reducing the impact of planned obsolescence, but it didn't mandate that consumers have direct control over the repair process; third parties were presumed to be involved. While this law is also about restoring more control from the manufacturers to the alleged owners of vehicles (only), it's not so much about planned obsolescence.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 05, 2012 @04:15PM (#41885649)

    I run my familys NAPA AutoCare center and this year we had a 2007 Dodge Caliber come in with a customer complaint of one headlight not working.... Even after replacing the bulb.

    Only one of my techs knew that the TIPM module had to have the circuit reset with our $4,000 + Snap on scanner.

    Yes I have read that you can do something with the battery cables and I am also aware of reasons not to do this... At the end of the day, a computer was needed to change the headlight on this particular vehicle.. Kind of insane..

  • by sjames (1099) on Monday November 05, 2012 @04:19PM (#41885707) Homepage

    Sure, now. Just like in '97, nobody would consider a '95 to be a 'classic car', just like in 1958 nobody considered the '57 Chevy to be a classic car.

    In 2020, that ;00 will be looking pretty classic, but impossible to fix up because the communications interface and protocols will still be deep dark secrets.

  • by sinij (911942) on Monday November 05, 2012 @04:27PM (#41885801) Journal
    This is very interesting point, and aftermarket parts are of great interest to any classic (or just old) enthusiast.

    Two problems with aftermarket - size of the market and quality.

    Size of the market is easy to explain, with ZERO interface standardization for any automotive part you have to consider how many potential customers are out there for an aftermarket part. Old civic tinted headlights? Tons to chose from. ECU for mid-90s luxury car - not so much.

    Quality is also huge issue. Everything manufactured in China and is very, very cheaply made. Often times replacement parts fail quicker than used parts. Currently anyone doing work "for myself" uses used parts with some R&R.

    Noticeable exception to above is when a specific part has a very high rate of failure for all cars on the road, and such failure does not kill the car outright. At this point someone in the US will setup small-scale manufacturing out of their own garage and make a living selling parts to fellow enthusiasts.
  • by rickb928 (945187) on Monday November 05, 2012 @04:30PM (#41885849) Homepage Journal

    I made a good living servicing Selectric typewriters back in the 90s and uo to about 2002, entirely due to the court decision that forced IBM to permit independent servicers to purchase manuals, tools, and parts. And a little mechanical aptitude. Untimately it was about product owners being able to fix their own stuff, and engage whoever they wanted to. This decision had effects in other industries.

    At the least, car manufacturers should be required to publish the specs for the diagnostic interfaces, and then sell the manuals (reasonable price was part of the IBM decision, IIRC) and let us service what we do in fact own. If they are claiming that the software is licensed, not sold, we need to have that fight.

    FWIW, I drive a 1998 Saab 900 SET Convertible. What a fun car. If you hose up the top, for instance repositioning any of the potentiometers that feed back position data to the computer, you will be going back to the dealer or someone who purchased the very expensive Tech II tool, which is not just an OBD2 reader, but interfaces with various onboard computers and make settings etc. I've done some terrible things to the top so far, and no need to reprogram, but that's just because I was warned in advance. My local dealer gave me the radio code when I had the battery replaced - they didn't have to do that for free, but they did. I'm pretty interested in this, since I prefer to buy beaters, and soon there will be no such thing, just high-mileage cars that need trips to the dealer to solve specific onboard computer problems.And there will be more, not less. problems with this. Despite major improvements, I don't see these onboard computers getting that much better, and the automobile is a terrible environment for anything like that. With Saabs, the 9000 was notorious for problems figuring out just which computer was causing the error, and the TCS system would put you in limp mode at the drop of a hat. Perfectly good car, just the computer choosing to be broken. ABS, climate control, seats, top, etc, there are 7 computers I know of in the 1998 Saab 900, not counting ther SID and cruise control...

    And Saabs, of course, are orphaned. Why would they withold info if there is no more business to protect? Mine can suffer any number of problems and that's the end of it, no part to fix it with. Windshield moldings seem to be gone now, so you use generic rubber. Parts for the top are becoming terribly precious.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 05, 2012 @04:38PM (#41885953)

    There is no reason to use a manual transmission on a car built in 2012. Modern automatic transmissions (especially on German made cars) are absurdly good, the car is better at deciding when to shift than you are.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 05, 2012 @05:18PM (#41886391)

    As a mechanic (some time...) that specializes in electrical / electronic / computer issues, here are some thoughts:

    The meaning of "non discrimnatory price", as used in the ballot question will be tied up in lawsuits for years. I can tell you that most of the independent shops out there *CAN NOT* afford to buy Factory Diagnostic Software or Hardware, as a business matter, for more than one or two oem's. Now, granted a lot of this stuff is available via piracy...

    Now, if a shop does a lot of one particular make, then yes, it will invest in the "official" factory diagnostic equipment.

    Just to give you an idea:
    Early 1990's to current Ford Motor Company brand vehicles: Ford IDS (software) / (VCM) hardware combo. price aprox $3,000.
    Circa 1980 to early 1990's Ford brand vehicles: Ford / Hickok "NGS" (price aprox $700 on ebay) (antiquated, but highest PID update rate on these vehicles)

    And, it's even worse for the independent heavy truck repair shops out there:
    (purchase cost + subscription, does not count the specialized interface hardware)
    Caterpillar ET software: $1,200.
    Cummins Insite software: $1,200.
    Detroit Diesel software: $1,800.
    Thats the most expensive, but there are a lot of other systems on heavy trucks are computerized too, and take additional expensive propritary software packages to diagnose and service.

    For anyone out there who thinks the most expensive diagnostic equipment from Snap-On or OTC is equal to factory, You're wrong. Even the most expensive aftermarket diagnostic equipment out there, has functionality gaps compared to the OEM stuff.

    FYI: Now your "average" shop around the corner is usually running a mid range scanner (~$3,000.) taht can do most of the things a mechanic actually needs day in day out. But when you get some whiz-bang software / electrical / electromechanical issue, you get the wrong diagnosis and ineffective / expensive repair. If you have a good honest mechanic, He'll tell you he's limited and suggest a dealership performed service. It's not ideal, but it's having integrity.

    Now as a computer / software hobbyist:

    Even If I want to code up my own GPL'd diagnostic software, I am limited as to the diagnostic and special test functions that I can implement.

    Standard OBDII functions, no problem, It's a semi open standard promulgated by SAE. J1939 standard functionality for heavy trucks, no problem again, another semi open standard promulgated by SAE.

    Now lets say i want to implement a standard cylinder contribution test (standard diagnostic test you run all the time). Much more difficult. In today's world You have to license (directly or indirectly) the proprietary protocol info from each manufacturer (under very restrictive terms) you want to implement code for. So that pretty much, kills that.

    If you were really hard core about implementing open diagnostic software that could do all (are some sub-set of) the propritary functions for a particular vehicle / engine manufacturer, then you're looking at some serious embedded hw/sw reverse engineering. And,in many cases prior to the mid 1990's, you have multiple proprietary protocols within a given manufacturer / model / year / controller range. That said, there was code and protocol reuse, but... That's why the "open" diagnostic software out there today just doesn't do the specialized stuff. Yet, anyway...

"More software projects have gone awry for lack of calendar time than for all other causes combined." -- Fred Brooks, Jr., _The Mythical Man Month_

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