Earlier this year, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) told automakers to ignore the Massachusetts Data Access Law, mandating open access to vehicle data. The federal agency claimed that open data cars could allow an avenue for hackers to break into vehicle control systems. NHTSA previously wanted to remain the sole regulator for vehicle data. Now, the agency openly supports Massachusetts’ right-to-repair law.
Wired reports that the Biden administration has abandoned its staunch anti-right-to-repair stance on motor vehicles. NHTSA sent a letter to the Office of the Massachusetts Attorney General now stating that the agency supports the state’s direction. An excerpt from the letter reads:
“NHTSA strongly supports the right to repair. We are pleased to have worked with you to identify a way that the Massachusetts Data Access Law may be successfully implemented — promoting consumers’ ability to choose independent or do-it-yourself repairs — without compromising safety. We write to confirm our mutual understanding of that path forward.”
There are some caveats. NHTSA still acknowledges there are some risks associated with allowing remote access to a car. The agency recommends that Massachusetts only mandate wireless access for vehicle owners and independent repair shops via short-range protocols like Bluetooth.
The agency has also warned automakers that they shouldn’t disable vehicle telematics to comply with the law as it’s written, something Kia and Hyundai have already done for new cars sold in the state. Telematic functions can be used by first responders to locate vehicles and are relied on by crash investigators.
It’s unclear how this U-turn will impact Massachusetts car owners in the immediate future. The Massachusetts Attorney General can now work towards enforcing the state’s right-to-repair data access law. However, automakers will still need time to develop the platforms to serve crucial information to mechanics and vehicle owners.